Santa Sangre (1989)

8.5 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 9/10

Much more story driven

Enjoyed El Topo more, didn't love the story

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Santa Sangre

Studio:  Mainline Pictures

Genre(s):  Horror/Mystery/Suspense

Release Date(s):  May 19, 1989 (Cannes Film Festival)

MPAA Rating:  NC-17


See the first problem is you’re suppose to avoid hitting the person with a knife…

Fenix (Axel Jodorowsky) has grown up among performers, but an early incident in his life has altered him forever.  When he was a child, his mother Concha (Blanca Guerra) attacked his father Orgo (Guy Stockwell) for having an affair with a dancer (Thelma Tixou) and had her hands severed as a result.  Driven mad by the horror, Fenix is rebuilding his life among the performers but finds himself forced to act as the arms his mother is missing.  Now whenever his mother grows jealous, Fenix pays the price…and it could force him to destroy the girl Alma (Sabrina Dennison) he loves.


I’ve got to remember…don’t keep the giant jar of acid anywhere near the bed when banging a dancer…

Written and directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky, Santa Sangre is a psychological thriller which follows Jodorowsky’s style of writing and directing.  The movie received limited release in the United States and positive reviews from critics (though it did receive the dreaded NC-17 rating).

I have a friend who is a huge Alejandro Jodorowsky fan and this is one of his favorite films.  Having seen (and enjoyed) El Topo, I decided to follow it up with Santa Sangre.  Though the movie was enjoyable, I don’t like it as much as El Topo, but I do find some of the weaker aspects of El Topo improved upon here.  It isn’t necessarily fair to compare the two films, but with two distinct visions from a director sometimes deserve comparison.


Kids with disabilities hopped up on cocaine with strippers…pretty much par for the course

El Topo was largely image driven and less plot driven.  Here, Santa Sangre has a more coherent plot and storyline.  The movie follows the rise (and fall) of Fenix.  It is an actual story…I however like the oddity of El Topo and enjoy attempting to try to interpret it.  Santa Sangre seemed more mysterious than it really was and the story turned out to be much more transparent…what I thought was happening was happening.

The acting is also improved in Santa Sangre.  Alejandro Jodorowsky continues to cast his family for the roles and Fenix is played by two of Jodorowsky’s sons:  Adan Jodorowsky (as a child) and Axel Jodorowsky (as an adult).  Alejandro continues his trend to cast real people with disabilities, but unlike El Topo, it didn’t feel like it was as much for shock in this film.  As part of a circus and performers, it makes sense for the handicapped actors to part of the story.


You want a piece of me?

Visually, Santa Sangre still excels too, but El Topo is more of a feast for the eyes.  Santa Sangre is loaded with rich visuals and these visuals are great for enhancing the story.  I just don’t like the story as much as I want to and I want even more bizarre imagery rather than story…the interpretation of the imagery is more fun than the plot.

You can see how influential Alejandro Jodorowsky is while watching Santa Sangre.  His visionary work is a feast and even if you prefer this one to his other films, or you like it less, it is worth seeking out to see how he’s influenced other creators…Just sit back, watch, and enjoy a strange ride.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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