I will spend no time dilly-dallying. Carne: The Taco Maker (2013) is fabulous. Watch it now. In fact, stop reading this review and go watch it. And then come back to my review. Please.
From its retro poster that would seamlessly fit in with any other exploitation film at the local grindhouse, to its strangely ominous title, Rene Rodriguez’s 2013 film is pure brilliance. The film follows the homey and trustworthy Don Taco (Mario Valdez Juarez) and his taco stand in a largely Hispanic neighborhood in L.A.. Don’s tacos have become a neighborhood favorite with everyone from the mohawk and peach-fuzz-mustache doting rebellious teens, to the elderly grandmas coming daily to buy some of Don Taco’s delicious meat. These tacos are so damn good! How are they so good??! Well, if you want to find out the ole Don Taco family recipe, you’re going to have to watch the film. And let me tell you, the secret isn’t free-range, grass-feed, GMO-free beef.
I can’t quite put my finger on why I loved Carneso much. The acting is terrible. The special effects are terrible. The writing is terrible. But for some reason, it just works. All of the muddled lines and half-fleshed out characters, all of the questionable camera angles and low-budget CGI blood, it all adds up to something so incredibly surreal and campy, harkening back to early John Waters films with a touch of David Lynch bizarreness.
And while Carne does work on a horror film level, its main success is its blending of genre and its role within the larger horror film community. Throughout the film, Rodriguez seamlessly blends the slasher, horror, and Chicano film genres into one tasty treat. And he does so with an incredible amount of skill and heart. Founder of Teatro Urbano-Chango Cinema, Rodriguez employs a community effort to create a real piece of art with Carne. It feels like if Jack Black’s and Mos Def’s characters from Michel Gondry’s Be Kind Rewind (2008) were to make a horror film. Carne is a film about community, about social inequality and wealth disparity, about family history and its role in the present day, about the importance of food in linking familial ties. The fact that Rodriguez is able to convey these ideas through the slasher genre is no coincidence, but a result of deft skill. Rene Rodriguez is a name to keep a look out for and I am very excited to see what he conjures up next.