Saturday, January 16, 2021

The Dark Minstrel Strikes!: Tuno Negro (2001)

Tuno Negro (Black Serenade) (Spain, 2001)
Rating: ***
Starring: Silke, Jorge Sanz, Fele Martínez

In this Spanish jab at an early 2000s teen slasher, music and murder goes hand in hand as a mythical slayer known as the Dark Minstrel is killing students at one Salamanca University, wherein campus boys occasionally dress up and perform as minstrels as a sort of tradition. Architecture freshman Alex (Silke) gets intertwined with the killings when she appears to have spoken with the Dark Minstrel themselves via dial-up age chatroom, hinting to her that someone will die in their gown later that night.

True enough, a newlywed bride had her brains beaten out with a mandolin before getting daggered to death and a few of Alex's coed acquaintances just happen to be performing that night as minstrels for the wedding, among other sultry businesses. As more students starts biting the big one and many of them being Alex's friends, she soon tries to figure out the motive behind these killings which may be linked to a 16th century legend about a group of poor minstrels who sang for money in order to pay for their schooling, only to be stricken troubled and murderous when wealthier scholars decided to be minstrels just for fun, basically taking away their livelihood.

All the while, a pair of inspectors are also looking into the recent murders, one of whom going by Victor (Fele Martínez) obsessing over uncovering the identity of the Dark Minstrel and has fallen in love with Alex, tangling himself into a love triangle with campus minstrel Eduardo (Jorge Sanz) who also has the hots for her. As the semester draws near its end, will the Dark Minstrel be stopped? Or will the cloaked-and-masked slayer succeed in ridding the campus of its undergrads?

For a decent bulk of the story, Tuno Negro can be a rather fun and engaging mystery that hams itself up with its attempts to sound serious and sophisticated talking about criminology and old century art and traditions. It boasts some fair stalk-and-chase scenes and murder set-pieces, a few including a claustrophobic murder inside a girl's bathroom's stall and a race against time with our leads trying to find a stalked friend using the killer's live footage feed, and I simply love the design of our killer minstrel and the concept of the legend their murders are centered on. 

On the cheesier side, there are some comic moments that had me smiling like a corpse dissection with gross results and one drug-dealing hippie guy (who looks like stretched-up Tom Savini, way too old to be a "college student") getting a handful of ass from the last lady he should be doing it to, and too his demise that somehow involves early CG blood serpents for reasons. In fact, Tuno Negro used a good bunch of these early day computerized transition cuts and visual effects, all of which I can say definitely didn't age well and can be a bit awkward to look at.

The fact that a lot of the characters surrounding Alex's clique are just annoying and most of the deaths felt relatively tame does hold me back from from enjoying this film any more, sadly, though none of them have the same mildly-frustrating sourness as this movie's finale; after all of that sleuthing, slashing and one softcore lovemaking, the payoff didn't feel satisfactory as the reveal to our Dark Minstrel's identity hardly made sense and why this killer managed to escape is just groan-worthy. Ignorance kills is a quote passed around more than once in the entire story, but they're definitely ignoring one to two plot points and loose ends in need of addressing and tying up before the film simply open-ends abruptly. I can't hate this final act completely as it still has a good dose of workable craziness, such as one of the inspectors going trigger happy on any dude in a minstrel suit because of a hunch he has of multiple Dark Minstrels working around the murders. (Even though you can clearly tell these minstrel boys are just running for their lives coz, I dunno, the fucking cathedral was set on fire?!

Tuno Negro (2001) is undoubtedly far off from being anywhere as smart or fun as the likes of Scream (1996) or Urban Legends (1998), but I'm not taking it against the movie and the people behind it for trying. It's understandably obscure, though if you see yourself as the easily forgiving type and you just happen to come across a copy of this film, feel free to ty it out.

1 female stabbed to death with a pair of dressmaker shears
1 female stabbed to death with a dagger
2 males and 1 female found slaughtered
1 male had his throat cut with a dagger
1 male stabbed to death with a dagger
1 female set on fire
1 male found murdered with a throat cut
1 female hanged
1 male set on fire
1 male shot
2 males shot
1 male stabbed to death with a dagger
1 male seen caught on fire
3 males shot
Total: 19

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