Macabro 2013 offered a couple of Puerto Rican films, as part of its out-of-competition section presented by the Puerto Rico Horror Film Fest (PRHFF). Barricada
), the 2011 winner for "best local feature" at PRHFF, was the first one and I had the chance to watch it at Mexico City's Cineteca Nacional (Cinematheque). It's a well-meaning effort with no further intention than being one kick-ass zombie flick. As an ordinary low-budget venture, Barricade
lacks exceptional filmmaking and, sadly, enough intelligence to cover up its amateurish look.
Directors Vance McLean and José F. Vargas wanted their zombie movie to be really serious, perhaps more than it should have been. While there are some humorous moments, Barricade wants to be a dark, tense and violent piece about the zombie apocalypse. The movie begins with just three men during a regular night at work; they are the "waterboys" of a shelter, meaning they must go out in a van to get water or other supplies from the houses of the people who are staying at the shelter. It's obviously not an easy task, as the zombies are wandering the streets ready to taste some human flesh.
This premise is fairly interesting, leaving the door open for some exhilarating, full-of-tension, horror situations. The minimalistic approach to the apocalypse, from the perspective of five characters (a young woman and a kid later join the "waterboys") within one night only, is not a bad decision. One can't say the filmmakers aren't trying to give the audience a good dose of tension. Take, for instance, a scene in which one of the "waterboys" (the driver) loses the van's keys, provoking yet another problem. The intention is there, at least.
One obvious problem is the fact that the zombies are just extras with almost no makeup at all. Each time there's some action with them, the poor filmmaking skills are much more evident. There are decent moments thanks to the interaction between the humans; the driver is the typical selfish bastard, the co-pilot is unimportant, while the real heroic character, the one who actually faces the zombies, is a younger dude who looks like a rapper.
Barricade doesn't show much about Puerto Rican culture other than the way they speak Spanish (it was hard to understand them). Once in a while the protagonists combine Spanish with some English, using specifically the word "fucking." And this is why some of the dialog that, I suppose, is common for Puerto Ricans proved to be quite amusing for the Mexican audience. Little by little, the film gets funnier, both intentionally and unintentionally.
It's only near the ending when Barricade finally shows the crazy B-movie fun it required since the first shitty zombie appeared. There's some drama for the climax too: the van no longer functions and the shelter may not be a safe place anymore. But all of this is mere excuse for a final battle between "good" (humans) and "evil" (zombies). It's so ridiculous and cheap that if you're watching Barricade with the right audience, it should be quite fun seeing one of the "waterboys" crowd surfing the zombies! Actually, if you fast-forward the whole movie just to get to this, you won't miss much.
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