“El Gigante”: A Giant Short Review for a Giant Short Film

El gigante poster

Think of an author you enjoy.

Now, if applicable, think of a film adaptation of their work that badly missed the mark.

What did the filmmakers get wrong?

No, I don’t mean that unfilmable plot-point they had to change to make the movie work, don’t be so basic.

Yeah, you’re second answer was correct: sometimes adaptations just don’t feel right.

They can stick closely to the plot, even end up transposing whole swaths of dialogue to the screenplay, but something about most adaptations just doesn’t live up to the movie you had in your head.

In a little over ten minutes Luchagore Production’s “El Gigante” feels right-er than almost any film adaptation I can think of.

It would be very easy to describe McKenzie’s novel, Muerte Con Carne, as The Tex-Mex Chainsaw Massacre. Plot-wise Hooper’s film is an obvious touchstone for the book and McKenzie doesn’t hide that, but it’s the differences in tone and focus that makes Carne so great.

The title character of the short, El Gigante, is an attempt not to mimic the mythic status that culture has built around Leatherface, but to reproduce the phenomenon. The way he’s described in the book is as cartoonishly large (to give you an idea: he tangles with a car at one point…and wins). Although that doesn’t seem like it would work on film (or at the very least would make casting the part difficult), the Luchagore team takes that exaggerated feel of the character and builds a film around him, so that by the time the world is established it feels only natural that El Gigante and his family could inhabit it.

Directed by Gigi Saul Guerrero (with a co-director credit given to D.P. Luke Bramley), “El Gigante” is polished to the point of absurdity. It’s colorful and art-produced to the nines. These filmmakers went all out to replicate the gonzo opening to McKenzie’s novel and it’s the detail that makes the picture.

With minimal dialog and entirely in Spanish, “El Gigante” is the result of plucking the prologue off of the novel and filming it with very few alterations. With the exception of a new character, a creepy child in a monkey suit (the inclusion fits, in fact it retroactively seems integral to sell you in the heightened world), nothing else I picked up on is different here. The film was partly financed via Kickstarter, the stated goal of which was to have a short film that could be used to raise funding for a feature.

It doesn’t feel like test footage. The ten minutes of “El Gigante” are their own thing, complete with a (very bleak) arc for our protagonist. But I guess it does work wonders as a proof-of-concept reel because all I wanted to happen when it was over was for the rest of McKenzie’s novel to unfold onscreen.

It feels weird to be reviewing what could sound on paper like promotional footage, but the film really does stand on its own and I encourage you to track it down when it becomes available to the public. I’m sure the Luchagore team will let you know when that is on their Facebook and, in the meantime, you can check out the source material here.

*So. A disclaimer, I guess. I know Shane McKenzie and I’ve co-authored a couple of novels with him. Back in October of 2012, I was even a pre-reader on Muerte Con Carne (not usually a responsibility I relish but I remember that the book made it easy).

But believe me: if I didn’t like this movie I probably would have saved myself the trouble of typing up a review and just shot Shane a disingenuous: “Sure, man. It was really good. Loved the lighting…” via Facebook messenger and have been done with it.

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