Barrio Tales opens with a wraparound story that follows two American teenagers who go to Barrio, Mexico in search of cheap drugs. Instead of a quick score, however, they find themselves stuck waiting for a dealer while a crazy, scar riddled Mexican man subjects them to three tales of terror:
The first story, Maria, follows a couple of rich asshole college kids who spend the night partying at the main character’s home while his parents are gone for the evening. At some point, the guys realize there’s a the beautiful new Mexican maid named Maria working in the home, so they make it a point to be completely rude and disrespectful to the woman throughout the day. Their disrespect goes a little too far, however, and the guys soon learn that it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt, especially when that someone’s grandmother is a healer, which is code word for Voodoo priestess who curses mofos.
This first story does of good job of giving the viewer someone to root for and against, which is a huge part of any successful anthology tale, however, the payoff is completely lackluster. Quite simply, the revenge happens way too fast and the actual payoff feels kind of cheap in comparison to the lead up, which is unfortunate because this is, sadly, the best of the three stories.
“Uncle Tio’s Taco Truck”
The second story, Uncle Tico’s Taco Truck, is as simple as a guy whose tacos are made of the meat of kids. That might seem like a spoiler, but this fact is totally obvious from the moment the segment starts. And quite frankly, that is exactly the issue with this segment. There’s no catch, no mystery, no twists or turns; it’s just about a guy who makes human tacos that everyone is dying to eat. It’s really no more than a 20 minute Slasher film, and a boring 20 minute Slasher film, at that. The only memorable moment in this one is when Tio actually says, “Who you trying to get crazy with, ese… don’t you know that I’m loco?!” to another character just before he kills him. The jury’s still out on whether or not this was a good or bad memorable moment.
Illegal immigration is the focus of the third and final story, El Monstruo, which focuses on a bunch of Mexicans who cross the border and run into some hillbillies who don’t take kindly to no border jumpers. The immigrants are then held captive, tortured and murdered by a madman, who gets his own comeuppance when one of the Mexican men escape and return with a few of his “boys.”
While El Monstruo is inherently pretty weak, the major issue is that this segment basically associates illegal immigrants with being gangbangers, which is probably not the best idea when you’re sort of trying to make a statement about perception and bigotry. Same goes for the second story, where the Tio character is simply a killer with no actual motivation. The only real victim in this entire anthology is Maria from the first segment, which, as I already mentioned, is the best of the bunch, and that’s not saying much.
Barrio Tales ends with its unsatisfying wraparound story wrapping up in the least interesting way possible, but by that point, there wasn’t anything that could be done to save this one. As an anthology tale, Barrio Tales is a complete and total failure. There are no real twists, in fact, everything is simply laid out with the path of each story being transparent from the start. None of the stories have a payoff that feels even remotely satisfying, and an unsatisfying payoff mixed with a weak build-up makes for a completely forgettable entry into the anthology subgenre, which is unfortunate because the Mexican theme seemed promising.