#TBT: A Look Back at the Mexican Director Whose Cult Horror Films Influenced Guillermo del Toro

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We’ve all known a demonic cat or two. I don’t mean the cutesy Youtube kind that wear shark costumes and ride around on robot vacuum cleaners, but rather the vicious, malevolent ones your friends have that pounce on you without a moment’s notice. Yet, while a couple of nasty scratch marks on your arm are no joke, rest assured that even the most savage house cat looks like Garfield next to Mexico’s original diabolical feline. Meet Becker…

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If the title cards didn’t give it away, you have just seen the opening sequence of Carlos Enrique Taboada’s cult masterpiece, Más negro que la noche (1975), which — as you may have also figured out — is about a murderous cat with a vaguely Germanic name. And it turns out the movie was so good, that had to make it twice.

So in honor of the film’s wildly successful remake released by Pantelion Films (in theaters now), this week’s Throwback Thursday is dedicated to Taboada and the fiendish feline that has haunted Mexican kid’s dreams for the better part of 40 years.

In the gothic horror tradition, Becker is the beloved pet of a decadent Mexican aristocrat and tía solterona who leaves her estate to her party-girl niece after kicking the bucket with no immediate heirs. While they’re ecstatic to have the house to themselves, the niece and her pals (including a young Lucia Mendes) move in, but don’t exactly take to Becker. Here’s a scene when the seeds of homicidal rage are planted.

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Widely considered to be one of director-screenwriter Taboada’s finest films, Más negro que la noche is campy, for sure, but it is also a masterpiece of pacing, visual storytelling and shock value, with more than a few contemporary movies taking cues from the director. Take a look at this compilation of death scenes for a sense of Taboada’s distinctive cinematic style (and Becker’s vengeful side), and while you’re at it tell me the opening scene of Ghostbusters isn’t at least an unconscious rip-off of this library scene.

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Indeed, Taboada’s influence runs far and wide: from Guillermo del Toro to, some say, Quentin Tarantino, but perhaps the most fitting homage to the man is the Mexico City-based goth duo named after his film Veneno para las hadas (1985). With an EP title like “El Virus del Papiloma Humano,” we can rest assured that Veneno para las hadas is keeping Taboada’s legacy alive in the world of creepy darkwave music.

In the meantime, check your local showtimes for the new version of Más negro que la noche and decide for yourself whether it’s worthy of carrying the name of Mexico’s very own master of horror.

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