Here’s that mash-up of Let the Right One In, Narcos, Enter the Ninja and Assault on Precinct 13 you ordered … and it’s riotously entertaining. None of the elements in the mix are original, but the combination is. Extra points for working a little poignance and a drama about two embattled, unconventional, screwed-up families into a scenario that’s pretty much non-stop action.
In a prologue, the Cuervos – a brood of vampires hiding out in Mexico – are attacked by a band of ninja warrior knights who wield mediaeval weapons. Lina (Paulina Gil), a sickly human girl, flees the massacre, pursued by drones with menacing red and green night-lights, fetching up in the heavily-fortified, high-tech estate of the significantly named del Toro clan. Patriarch Pedro (Daniel Martinez), heir to a crime cartel, is trying to negotiate his way out of the rackets into a legitimate life with his second wife Francis (Lisette Morelos) and problem children – sulky teen Maria (Paola Marin) and sickly son Beto (Matias del Castillo). Pedro’s loyal assistants, Alan (Horacio Garcia Rojas) and Erik (Ramon Medina), are sceptical about his retirement, which is on the point of precipitating war with former associates, and Beto has just received a not-at-all-reassuring ouija board message from his dead mother … ‘she’s coming’. Lina sets off alarms and is brought into the compound, then the ‘arcanos’ launch a devastating attack that prompts lockdown and a siege. Everyone inside the house undergoes radical changes (Lina most of all) and a lot of blood gets spilled as allegiances break and enmities flare up.
Director Rigoberto Castañeda made the contemporary llorona movie KM 31. Working from a script by Michael Caissie, who wrote the likable werewolf quickie Hunters Moon, he gives another famous monster a decent make-over. The spin here is that Lina, presumably named for the actress Lina Leandersson of Let the Right One In, isn’t a vampire yet, though she has begun the process of transformation, so she teeters between vulnerable orphan and wall-crawling, bloody-mawed horror. The fangs/bites/wounds here are unusually (and credibly) messy, but a lot of other action elements – parkour, martial arts, gun fu, archery, fist-fights – are in play before the teeth pop out and the monster business takes over. There’s an unforced parallel between the apparently civilised vampire gang, who have found a sick child perhaps to fulfil the first part of Beto’s dead mother’s prophecy, and del Toro’s crew, who fracture early on so that he has to cope with rebellion and sabotage as he tries to keep his kids – and the strange new addition to the menage – safe while kohl-eyed, armoured, murderous fanatics besiege him.