“Satanic Hispanics” is a skillfully executed Latin horror anthology of time, mythical creatures, haunting folklore, and humor.
Receiving a limited theatrical release in celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, this fervent anthology will soon find a second audience relishing its magic at home. I’m not here to write a full-fledged film criticism by any measure but more to reflect on why Satanic Hispanics is a breath of fresh air right now for independent horror.
As the sole survivor of a brutal massacre and police raid in El Paso, Texas, The Traveler (Efren Ramirez) races against time to convince Detectives Arden (Greg Grunberg) and Gibbons (Sonya Eddy) that the end is near for all of them if they don’t release him.
Through a series of five visionary tales and foreshadowing relics, each moment becomes darker, more intriguing, and more complex in discovering The Traveler’s purpose.
Ramirez’s performance is magnetic. Few actors have that extra special knack for delivering narrative dialog.
The opening segment serves as a superb wrap-around and finale from the talents of Director, Editor, and Producer Mike Mendez (Tales of Halloween, Big Ass Spider!). Co-producer and co-creator of Satanic Hispanics, Director Alejandro Brugués (Juan of the Dead) knew exactly who to bring into this powerhouse of cinematic madness and talent: Demián Rugna (Terrified), Eduardo Sánchez (The Blair Witch Project), Gigi Saul Guerrero (Bingo Hell), and Mendez.
Why did I love Satanic Hispanics?
The wraparound, the interconnected segments, and the overarching tone of Satanic Hispanics was a grand symphony.
What do I mean by that? Think of an anthology film, with its unifying framework and order of stories, like an orchestration.
The musical conductor knows what notes need to dissolve, which instruments need to be played in what order, and when the piece requires more timbre or bravado. Intensity and emotion are musical and unified in the vision of a narrative.
Personally, I found the pacing of this film to be seamless.
From ghostly madness taking place in Argentina, Demián Rugna knows how to transform lighting as a character in itself, playing along with Demián Salomón’s performance.
Eduardo Sánchez’s vampiric slapstick comedic love story showcases a warm chemistry between Hemky Madera and Patricia Velasquez.
The Mexican folklore legend of Nahuales is intense; it’s frightening and demonstrates superb writing. I would love to see Gigi Saul Guerrero turn this into a full-feature film, keeping Gabriela Ruíz and Ari Gallegos onboard.
Alejandro Brugués is having fun directing Jonah Ray. And Jacob Vargas was a riot in a role quite different from what he has played in the past.
The film’s finale lives up to the trailer with the remarkable and integral special effects of Norman Cabrera.
I reflected as I rewatched Satanic Hispanics on how this industry continues to sleep on incredible talent.
I’ve watched Varga’s work since Gas Food Lodging (1992), The Blair Witch Project twice in theater in 1999, The Convent (2000), and Juan of the Dead (2011) on the big screen. Rugna and Guerrero have brought groundbreaking contributions to the genre of horror with Terrified (2017) and México Bárbaro (2014).
Everyone’s working, yet the gaps are significant in motion picture features opportunities.
Back in 1992 and 2000, I never would have jumped forward to 2023 to see how scarce it is in the landscape of film. The best of the best are working paycheck to paycheck, rejection after rejection. Another reason I loved Satanic Hispanics is that it was a cinematic reunion long overdue.
Dread (Epic Pictures) clearly understands the love for anthologies and a reminder that their previous success, Tales of Halloween (2015), is not that far away from celebrating its ten-year anniversary.
Tales should get the same theatrical treatment that Michael Dougherty’s Trick ‘r Treat did last year. Because in those ten years, there’s a growing audience only experiencing it at the click of a streaming remote. It’s truly a privilege to watch a movie on the big screen, and this week, I felt very fortunate to buy a ticket at my local AMC for Satanic Hispanics.
When it comes to the future of Indie Horror, we can’t continue to get stuck in the thoughts of, “I’ll wait until it drops on Shudder,” but make an effort. After the SAG and WGA strikes and the post-pandemic setbacks find a resolution, I believe a bigger theatrical resurrection of Indie Horror will take place.
If you bought a ticket for Terrifier 2, you showed the studios what you desired. Even if the distributors give us Slotherhouse or the upcoming Suitable Flesh for one night or a weekend, it’s a start.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t address a couple of the controversies surrounding this film.
First, the film has been accused of misrepresenting Latinos and playing to stereotypes. Second, some have expressed outrage over the blasphemous title.
For a minute, let’s forget the flying rulers of “nun-sense” and address the more pressing concerns of stereotyping that have led to a small boycott of the film. I respect those concerns; I truly do. The film industry, for many decades, has basked in the belittlement of creating Latino characters ranging from the subservient “Si Senor” Mexican workers to gangster and drug cartel prototypes.
I’m Caucasian, and I find the roles demeaning.
Taking another step back, however, I believe the filmmakers involved with Satanic Hispanics have been feeling the same sentiments for a long time. Sure, there is rampant violence in this film, but it is an interpretation of horror. There’s nothing in Satanic Hispanics that made me detect an ounce of intended disrespect.
There is no battle here to be fought. The reality is you have five passionate allies.
Please give Satanic Hispanics a chance. And if you still feel the same way after watching, respectfully, you are entitled to have an opinion. At least you watched it first.
Satanic Hispanics left me wanting more. It dares to usher in a new foundation for Latin Horror and a portal for indie horror that, I hope, from this moment on, never closes.
No VOD or streaming dates have been announced yet. Satanic Hispanics is slated for a physical media release in mid-December.
Felicidades Equipo de Hispanos Satánicos!