Santa Sangre, in a distressing display of unoriginal thinking, sets up its story as so many have before it. It opens with the same old insane-naked-man-stuck-up-in-an-artificial-tree-on-the-inside-of-a-Mexican-madhouse-with-a-flashback-to-his-childhood-in-which-he-attends-the-sad-New-Orleans-style-funeral-of-an-elephant-before-witnessing-his-hairy-morbidly-obese-rhinestone-cowboy-knife-throwing-circus-freak-father-slash-his-own-throat-after-cutting-off-his-mother’s-arms-in-a-fit-of-rage-after-she-tosses-a-jar-of-acid-on-his-balls-for-banging-the-tattooed-lady-making-her-death-referential-to-the-martyrdom-of-an-unofficial-armless-saint-that-she-worships-thusly-setting-the-stage-for-her-vengeful-spirit-to-return-from-the-grave-and-seize-control-of-his-arms-and-go-on-a-killing-spree type of deal. If you can keep awake while watching this tired, old premise unwind, YET AGAIN, for the fiftieth time, the film rewards you by moving into more unfamiliar territory.
So, after a flash-forward, or whatever you want to call it. Actually, since we are returning to the present from a flashback, can we really call it a flash-forward? Maybe we can. However, it doesn’t make logical sense to call it a flash-forward when all that’s really happened is the flashback has ended, thus returning us to the present, which is not the present, but 1989 Mexico, which kind of has the feel of 1981 Miami. At least, the hairdos do.
Anyway, after we return to the present, our boy Fenix(yes, his name is the Spanish word for Phoenix, not exactly subtle, as symbolism goes, this IS the country that gave us Menudo, remember)is all grown up and nuts because of what he saw as a child(we covered that right?). So, one night, during an inpatient trip to the movies, he and a bunch of Down’s Syndrome buds of his are intercepted at the ticket booth by a greasy, Mexican pimp, who gives them cocaine and gets them some sticky access with a three hundred pound prostitute. I know what you’re thinking: this is what happens to EVERYBODY when they go to Mexico. These guys don’t get out much, though. The next day, Fenix is filled with a renewed vigor, bouncing around the madhouse like an acrobat and, once again, wanting to drink of the magnificent font of experience that is life in a 2nd world country. Out the window of his cell he sees a vision of his mother calling him from the sidewalk below, and he climbs through the window down to the pavement to meet her. The two march off, side-by-side, down the mysterious fog-strewn street, and into destiny and/or the second act.
Now, this is something that really gets my goat. People have GOT to stop following their mother’s ghosts down foggy streets, symbolizing uncertain futures. Symbolism should be avoided in real life, take it from a guy who once accidentally sliced a crucifix into his cheek, while shaving, at the same time he was on the phone lying to a minister about fucking his daughter. However, should you ever venture down that foggy road, stop before you come to a crossroads or a rickety bridge extending over a raging stream, because now you’ve stepped into the territory of full-blown allegory, at the end of which you will find things like personal growth, and other such fruity crap, that you can definitely do without.
Anyway, as it turns out, Fenix’s mom isn’t dead, she’s very much alive, although her armlessness seems to have never gone away.
Now, ask yourself this: Would you rather be dead, or unable to wipe your ass in a country where people spend as much time on the toilet as they do sleeping?
So, mother and son put together a circus act, where he acts as her arms, although, unknown to the audience, she can take complete control over them whenever she wants, even against her son’s will. As it turns out, this is prime entertainment in Mexico, and they prove quite popular. Women are simply all over Fenix, and mother ain’t down widdat. She forces him to stab and mutilate them, which makes this red, viscid, plasmatic liquid squirt from their wounds, which, I believe, is supposed to be symbolic of blood. I may be reading into that, too much, though.
Santa Sangre is, supposedly, a very important film. It is highly lauded by critics, and film school dicks, across the world. It is a pretty good movie, however, it’s too eccentric and tongue-in-cheek to truly be scary. It was made by surrealist filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky, and should be watched carefully, for many a riddle is posited in both the story being told, and in the very scenery in which it is told. If you pay attention, you can spot the director’s mysterious sense of humor built into the very fabric of the tale, as well as the sets. It’s a tour-de-force of wit, sensuality and brutality that appeases both the intellect and the escapist. It’s not very scary, though. So, if your idea of a perfect movie is anything with the word Hellraiser in it, you should probably skip Santa Sangre and go back to listening to bands whose guitars are tuned down to A#.