A few words before we get to the review proper. Mexico has a sadly ignored rich history with the horror genre. Offering a vast array of flicks for any adventurous fan from the genuinely chilling (1975’s Darker Than Night) to the bat shit insane (1962’s The Brainiac), Mexi-horror should (especially the first boom) be held in higher esteem. Rich with atmosphere, filled with talent and enthusiastic as all hell Mexi-horror deserves your love…go on…get yourself some.
Our film begins with a young woman taking a sharp turn too fast and getting in a car accident. Seeking help, she follows a haunting piano tune to a creepy ranch. When she uses the set of keys she finds tossed on the ground outside the door to answer the pleas on the other side, what awaits her causes her to scream. Her body is later found by Ricardo Souto (Abel Salazar *and if you plan on getting into Mexi-horror you will become quite familiar with Mr. Salazar) a writer who is in the area looking for a famous pianist who mysteriously quit the concert scene and vanished.
Souto travels to the same house as the ill fated woman to get her help but is turned away at the door by a cranky old woman. He later returns to the house when he discovers it is where Samuel Magno (said famous pianist) is staying. Samuel seems a bit off, his mother is a cold and cranky old bitch who wants Souto to leave and Magno’s new protege is a lovely young woman (Martha Roth) who immediately takes a shine to the handsome young writer.
Magno is teaching Laura everything he knows and is claiming she will be seen as the world’s greatest pianist once she greets the masses at her upcoming concert. Unable to shake the nagging feeling that something is off, Souto makes his exit but begins to do some investigating on what the hell is going on at Rancho de Magno. Trust me, there’s a shit ton of dark history just waiting to be unearthed.
Magno is not the benevolent teacher he seems to be. Years ago he was an insanely jealous musician who had to stand in the background as Alejandra (Martha Roth picking up double duty) collects all the acclaim. Well, Magno decides his best bet is to make a deal with the Devil to become the world’s greatest pianist. The deal is struck and Magno murders Alejandra that very same night. He brings her body home with him, places her in a chair facing his piano and plays. Much to his delight he is now a master of the craft, sadly (as these deals tend to go) when he plays the devilish music he transforms into a silly looking monster. In a Jekyll & Hyde type situation, the professor is wracked with guilt but his monstrous alter ego will do anything to remain the best. Magno’s plan is to let Laura have all the accolades to make up for the gift he robbed the world of all those years back. It’s not gonna end well.
The film moves along at a steady clip and reveals itself at a proper pace. There’s enough goofiness (just look at that monster mug!) for folks like me and enough atmosphere to excuse some of the cheaper aspects. There are better examples of Mexican horror from the first boom period (mid 30’s to the early 70s) but The Man and the Monster is a fine introduction to this particular area of world cinema. 7/10