Built upon a fantastic premise with mixed results, the horror anthology Satanic Hispanics offers up five short films from five of the better-known Latino genre filmmakers, including Demian Rugna (When Evil Lurks), Gigi Saul Guerrero (Culture Shock), Eduardo Sanchez (The Blair Witch Project), Mike Mendez (Big Ass Spider), and Alejandro Brugues (Juan of the Dead). Mendez directs the primary story (called “The Traveler”), from which the other four stories stem, involving a police raid on an El Paso house filled with dead Latinos, save one survivor calling himself the Traveler (Efren Ramirez, best known as Pedro in Napoleon Dynamite). He’s brought in for questioning by police detectives (Greg Grunberg and Sonya Eddy), and he explains that he’s been alive for decades (possibly longer) because he cannot die and that a great evil is following him and will arrive in 90 minutes to kill everyone.
As the Traveler is being interrogated, he tells the other stories in Satanic Hispanics, which he has collected over his lengthy stay being alive, including tales about portals to other worlds, mythical creatures, vampires, the undead, and my personal favorite, Brugues’s “The Hammer of Zanzibar,” starring Jonah Ray Rodrigues, about a demon with a large… “hammer,” which can be used as a weapon against other such supernatural creatures.
Watching the film is cathartic in many ways. Not only does it feature talented Latino filmmakers behind the camera, but most of the actors are Hispanic, and some of the stories are drawn from Latin American folklore and legends. Satanic Hispanics also embraces the cinematic tones often found in Latin cinema. For example, Sanchez’s “El Vampiro” is a straight-up comedy, featuring a reckless bloodsucker prowling the streets on Halloween night because he doesn’t stand out and getting dangerously close to getting caught outside when the sun rises because he forgot to reset his watch for the autumn time change.
“Tambien Lo Vi” delivers a classic and sometimes genuinely scary ghost story, while “Nahuales” brings a surreal edge to a culturally specific folk horror yarn. And Mendez’s through-line serves as a complete and quite compelling fifth part to this anthology that isn’t just there to spin off the others but acts as its own tense, action-packed segment. Like most horror anthologies, not all of the chapters work as well as the others. Some are slow or just not that scary, but there’s something about bringing all of this talent into one place that makes for a unique horror experience. Despite the very different tones of each piece of Satanic Hispanics, it does feel strangely unified and beautifully realized.
The film opens in theaters September 14.
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