Friday, August 24, 2007

The Dynamics of the CasaNegra Failure

The failure of CasaNegra to succeed in a line of classic Mexican horror films gives rise to speculation about what, if anything, the company did wrong, but chiefly (in my mind) about the viability of Mexican horror in the American and even international market.

Regarding CasaNegra itself, the company did get the attention of many horror fans and nutured a positive and in many cases enthusiastic response to its releases, consistently receiving high marks for the quality and presentation of its films. The company even won a Rondo Award for best DVD company of 2006. While I can complain about the commentaries that were included on its initial releases (needless commentaries because of the lack of familiarity and knowledge of Mexican horror and its filmmakers) and that one awful cover for The Man and the Monster (a cover that in itself pointed to a desperate, last ditch attempt to gain a greater consumer response), I can't point to any one thing that CasaNegra did wrong that would have effected its releases negatively in the marketplace.

Which leads to the critical issue: Is Mexican horror sellable here in the United States?

I believe that it's not. At least not sellable enough to justify significant expenditure on the acquisition of prime prints and the production of sterling Criterion-like releases. At it's not just CasaNegra that has met a depressing fate when releasing Mexican films to the American market. A few years ago Kit Parker tried to establish a DVD line of Mexican classics for VCI, including a series of Santo films, that petered out after a couple of releases. More recently BCI tried to interest consumers with an Aztec Mummy box set and several Mexican horrors, an endeavor that also didn't produce notable financial results.

The bottom line is that the general horror audience in America, let alone the American public, is not really that interested in Mexican horror films, old or new, in black-and-white or in color, unless a Mexican horror film makes it big in theaters, such as some of the films coming from Guillermo del Toro. The sadder fact is that even in Mexico, Mexican horror films are not hot or lukewarm items. As in the United States, they tend to be ignored by the masses, as they are ignored in the rest of the world. (A DVD company in France, Bach Films, introduced a line of Mexican horror classics, almost the same one released by CasaNegra here in the States, to disappointing results.)

Despite our affection for these films, we must realize that they are niche product at this time, far distant from the days (in many cases almost fifty years ago!) when they were popular, either in theaters or on TV. Time moves forward, and the attention of newer generations is focused on so many other things and not, obviously, on Mexican horror films.

What is to be done to rectify this situation? And are we, the fans of these films, doomed to view Mexican horror films through murky bootlegs that lack the English subtitles so many of us desperately need?

Regarding the first question, the most that can be done is to continue what we've been doing--watching these films, talking about them, spreading the good word and supporting endeavors that further promote Mexican horror.

Regarding authorized releases of Mexican horror in the United States, with English subtitles, it still is possible for some company to take an admitted risk to acquire rights to release Mexican horror films, but such a company can't give in to exorbitant demands on the part of the Mexican rights owners, nor should they be too concerned about making sure that the elements are in sterling condition. Cutting unnecessary financial costs would be crucial. A US DVD company could also make attempts to work with Mexican DVD companies, so that both can produce and market DVDs that do have a passionate, albeit small audience. Mexican DVD companies that do on occasion release a Mexican horror film (usually with lucha libre legends) could be solicited to make sure those releases have optional English subtitles, and then those releases could be exported to the United States.

Something may just click, and Mexican horror could become reasonably popular, enough so as to justify the expenditure and time spent on producing such DVDs. Perhaps a patron or patrons can be found--a person or persons with ready capital, for whom being in the red on such releases wouldn't matter much, and who could get satisfaction at the promotion and archiving of an important and fascinating catalog of films, films that we'll never see the likes of again and which addressed a country's entertainment and spiritual needs, as well as our own.