Reviews

Narco Satanico (1984)

Diff’rent Strokes was a 1980s sitcom about a white guy named Phillip Drummond who adopts two black kids named Willis and Arnold Jackson. Most people are familiar with the show’s famous catchphrase (“Whatchoo talkin’ ‘bout, Willis?!”). But they’re not aware that some episodes are as deranged as “Having Fun With Elvis on Stage,” which is a 37-minute album comprised of nothing but stage banter from a stoned old fart named Elvis Presley.

In a season six episode of Diff’rent Strokes called “The Van Drummonds,” actors Conrad Bain and Dana Plato appear in dual roles as “Mr.Drummond/Aunt Ana” and “Kimberly Drummond/Cousin Hans.” Throughout the episode, no one acknowledges that the same actors are playing two different roles in drag. It’s accepted as reality.

Like “The Van Drummonds,” Narco Satanico will test your understanding of reality. And no matter how hard you study, it’s a test that you will fail.

Vicki is in love with Ricardo. Ricardo is in love with Barbara. Therefore, Vicki’s only option is to visit a witch and sell her soul to the devil. Lucifer makes sure that Ricardo becomes impotent with any lady who is not named Vicki. After Ricardo and Vicki have sex, a private detective informs Ricardo that Vicki is evil. Ricardo calls bullshit! Vicki stabs him in the throat. At the funeral, Ricardo’s son Carlos pledges to avenge his father’s death. Ricardo’s ghost likes this idea. The ghost possesses Carlos’ body so that Vicki and be seduced and murdered. Eventually, Ricardo is resurrected as a zombie so that he can violently remove a policeman’s insides while accompanied by Vincent Price’s laugh from Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

This is a good time to point out that Carlos and Ricardo are played by the same actor. But when the action switches from Ricardo to Carlos, the actor looks fifteen years younger. This is because when that footage was shot, he actually was fifteen years younger.

Whatchoo talkin’ ‘bout, Narco Satanico?!

This movie feels like an R-rated Telemundo telenovela that channels the spirit of Godfrey Ho’s cut-and-paste blasterpieces through the blur of a slight migraine. Originally shot as a romantic drama called Cautivo del más allá in 1968, the movie was shelved until Film-Mex Productions purchased it in the early 1980s. The original actors were hired to shoot new horror-themed scenes, and Film-Mex released this ambitious project as Terror, sexo y brujería in theaters and Narco Satanico on home video. This explains why we hear Goblin-esque disco-synth emanating from the acoustic guitars of a Mid-Century mariachi band. It does not explain why someone decided to include an endless courtroom scene from Cautivo del más allá instead of replacing it with more scenes of Satan prowling around in a cemetery while wearing a rubber devil mask.

Narco Satanico is ten minutes of nonsensical beauty buried within sixty minutes of nap-inducing exposition. Typically, this wouldn’t be a big deal. Run Coyote Run follows the same conceptual approach. But that movie had a reckless and unpredictable energy — we never knew what was going to happen next, and we couldn’t wait until it happened. Narco Satanico is sluggish and flat, shot in the static style of Herschell Gordon Lewis and edited by someone who couldn’t wait to get home and fall off a cliff. For every universe-ripping moment of Lucio Fulci plagiarism, there are ten scenes of people talking in garishly decorated living rooms. I’m grateful that someone attempted to create a new sliver of reality through this movie. I just wish that there was enough electricity to keep the lights on for 75 minutes.

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