They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If this is the case, then there are plenty of horror filmmakers who should be flattered by Angel Negro. This Chilean import takes the idea of homage and runs screaming into cliché-land, proving that originality must count for something in the end.
Angel Negro opens in 1990, as six friends -- Gabriel (Alvaro Morales), Angel (Blanca Lewin), Carolina (Andrea Freund), Miguel (Juan Pablo Bastidas), Lorena (Patricia Pardo), and Rafael (Alvaro Espinoza) -- are celebrating their graduation from secondary school. Their party moves to a sea-side cliff and ends in tragedy when Angel falls from the cliff onto the rocks below. The story then jumps ahead ten years. Miguel is now working as a medical examiner and is shocked when Rafael's body comes into the morgue. His disbelief is magnified when Miguel is killed by a masked figure. Gabriel contacts Carolina, who had been married to Miguel, and confesses to her that he believes their group is being killed off one-by-one because of Angel's death. At first, Carolina scoffs at this idea, but when she begins to learn the truth about Angel's death and how she was mistreated by the boys at school, she too begins to look over her shoulder for the masked killer.
Upon its initial release, Angel Negro received some acclaim as it is reportedly the first horror film to come from Chile. The first time certainly isn't the charm, as the movie is an unmitigated mess. For starters, the story isn't a homage to films such as Prom Night and I Know What You Did Last Summer, it is a rip-off that brings nothing new to the genre. (For a much better example of a foreign film which does honor to this genre, check out the Korean film Nightmare AKA Gawi AKA Horror Game Movie.)
Sure there have been plenty of other horror films which are rip-offs, but writer-director Jorge Olguin hangs his entire story on the "revenge from beyond the grave" plot, which he then mingles with the typical elements of the "slasher" genre. We get no character development, no suspense, and an ending which is telegraphed 80 minutes in advance. Any movie where we are supposed to be concerned about the deaths of three characters who are total strangers to us clearly isn't concerned with a deep emotional attachment. And, as with many low-budget shockers, Angel Negro is about 95% talking and 5% action. That action is poorly-staged and relatively free of gore. For such a low-budget movie, the acting is surprisingly good, but the actors are given little to work with. Olugin should be applauded for having the guts to make this movie with such limited resources, but Angel Negro (along with this second outing Eternal Blood) show that he has a lot to learn about storytelling.
Angel Negro comes to DVD courtesy of Troma Video. The film has been letterboxed at about 1.80:1, but the transfer is not anamorphic. The movie was shot using video and 16mm film, and this transfer shows the problems which can result from those mediums. The image is hazy and rarely totally clear. There are numerous visible defects from the source material, such as minor scratches and black dots. The image is grainy and often soft. The colors aren't bad, but the image is often too dark. The English subtitles are burned in and, being white, are often hard to read. Also, the subs aren't very well-done and are frequently grammatically incorrect. (And they fall off the edge of the frame at times.)
The audio track on this DVD is the original Spanish track, which is presented in digital 2-channel stereo. The dialogue is clear and audible, but there is a trace amount of hissing on the track. The stereo effects are very standard and there is nothing remarkable about this track.
The DVD contains a handful of extras. We start with an audio commentary from writer/director Jorge Olguin. Those of you who understand Spanish can hear Olguin speak directly. For the rest of us, we're stuck listening to Olguin's comments being read by a random group of Troma employees. Granted, this is a novel approach, but it shreds the comments of any emotion. We do learn some interesting facts about the making of the film, but for the most part, the comments generally refer to the challenges of low-budget filmmaking. "The Making of Angel Negro" (4 minutes) offers behind-the-scenes footage and comments from Olguin, mostly referring to the autopsy scenes. "Jorge at Fantasia" (5 minutes) delivers an interview with the director done at the Fantasia Film Festival. The interview is translated by Festival Coordinator Karim Hussein. We learn a little more about the film here, and it's nice to hear the comments directly (sort of) from Olguin. Both the English-language and Spanish-language trailers for Angel Negro are offered on the DVD, and both run 2-minutes. The remainder of the extras are the usual Troma oddities, such as trailers for other Troma releases and a 53-second public service announcement called "Radiation March".
Angel Negro is simply the latest in a long line of bad foreign horror films which received attention for the simple fact that they were foreign. The movie is dull, pointless, and unoriginal. The fact that Olguin is the only person in Chile making horror films doesn't mean that he's making good ones. Remember, you can't spell "cliché" without Chile.