Satanic Hispanics Puts a Latino Spin on Anthology Horror

Image provided by Dread

I’m not going to lie, when I first heard there was a film called Satanic Hispanics, I dismissed it pretty quickly. The name sounded like a cheap early-1990s wrestling gimmick, so I just rolled my eyes and went on with my life. But then the trailer came out, and I changed my tune. It showcased a whole bunch of genuinely creepy scares, so I started to get excited about this movie. I thought it had some real potential, and I found myself anxiously awaiting the day I’d finally be able to check it out.

Satanic Hispanics is an anthology film intended to showcase Hispanic talent both in front of the camera and behind it. It’s composed of four segments, directed by Gigi Saul Guerrero, Mike Mendez, Demián Rugna, Alejandro Brugués, and Eduardo Sánchez, and they star Efren Ramirez, Greg Grunberg, Hemky Madera, Jonah Ray Rodrigues, Patricia Velásquez, Jacob Vargas, Ari Gallegos, Demian Salomon, Christian Rodrigo, and Michael C. Williams, and a frame story.

When the movie begins, we see a team of police officers raiding a house in El Paso, Texas, and they find the place full of dead Latinos. There is, however, one exception. A man named Juan Garcia is somehow alive, so they take him back to the station for questioning. He tells his interrogators four stories about magic and the supernatural, and after he’s done, his own story comes to an otherworldly conclusion as well.

Like most anthologies, Satanic Hispanics is a pretty mixed bag. Both the quality and the tone of its segments varies wildly, so it’s tough to give general thoughts on the film as a whole. Instead, I think it’s best if I review each individual story, and hopefully that’ll give you a better idea of what to expect from this creepy celebration of Latin American culture.

A man cutting off his own hand
Image provided by Dread

First, we have the frame story. Like I said, it’s about a man who’s taken in for questioning after surviving a massacre, and we return to his interrogation after every tale he tells. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m a huge fan of frame stories. I much prefer anthologies that tie their segments together to a wider story that essentially juxtaposes a handful of short films. So I might be a bit biased, but I thought the frame story was one of the best things about Satanic Hispanics.

The acting is totally believable, and the way it slowly pulls back the curtain and reveals the survivor’s secrets is really intriguing. I couldn’t wait to learn more about this guy after every segment, and when his own story reaches its explosive conclusion, the payoff is just as good as the setup. It’s basically everything I want in a frame story, so this part of the movie gets a big thumbs up from me.

Next, let’s talk about the first segment, “También Lo Vi” (Spanish for “I saw it too”). It’s about a speedcuber (someone who solves Rubik’s Cubes in seconds) who claims to see supernatural phenomena in his house, and for my money, it’s the best story in Satanic Hispanics. It has believable and likeable characters as well as some genuinely creepy scares, and it incorporated the main character’s Rubik’s Cube skills into its mythology in a really clever way.

After that high point, the film immediately goes to the opposite end of the spectrum and gives us its worst segment, “El Vampiro” (Spanish for “The Vampire”). See, this one is a horror comedy, but I didn’t find it very funny. Sure, a couple of the jokes were decent enough, but on the whole, the humor in this story simply didn’t work for me. After just a few minutes, I was tempted to fast forward through this segment (but I didn’t!), so in my opinion, this is the absolute low point of Satanic Hispanics.

Next, we have a story called “Nahuales,” and it’s about a creature from Mesoamerican folklore that’s similar to a werewolf. Nahuales are people who can shapeshift into their animal counterparts, and on the whole, I enjoyed this segment. The plot is a bit undercooked, so it’s not quite as good as “También Lo Vi,” but the horror is fun enough that it makes for a good palate cleanser after “El Vampiro.”

A man holding a bloody heart
Image provided by Dread

Last but not least, we have an untitled segment that’s about two people who go out to dinner and discuss some creepy goings-on in their lives. This one is a curious mix of serious horror and silly comedy, and while it’s mostly enjoyable, I don’t think it combines those two tones particularly well. They’re more juxtaposed than genuinely integrated, so this story feels like it was Frankensteined together in a weird way. Nevertheless, the scares and the laughs work well enough on their own, so all in all, I’d still give this final segment a thumbs up.

Before we wrap up, I want to talk a bit about the overall Hispanicness of Satanic Hispanics. As you can probably tell from my last name, I’m Hispanic myself, so you might think that I loved seeing five horror stories steeped in Latin American culture. And you’d be partially right. A lot of the dialogue in this movie is in Spanish, and since I grew up speaking the language with my grandmother, that dialogue has a bit of a warm, homey feel for me.

But beyond that, I have to be honest, I didn’t get a huge cultural high from this film. See, a lot of people outside Latin America tend to view all Hispanic culture as more or less homogeneous, but it’s actually not. Different Latin American countries have different cultures, so even though there are obviously similarities (like the language), there are some big differences too.

In fact, there are too many different Hispanic cultures for a two-hour movie with only five segments to highlight all of them individually, and as far as I can tell, my own heritage (I’m Dominican) didn’t make the cut. Granted, I’m not an expert in Dominican folklore, so maybe I just missed something, but I didn’t recognize anything in this film as specifically Dominican. And that’s okay. Just seeing Hispanic characters and hearing Spanish dialogue was enough to make me feel right at home, so on a cultural level, I got exactly what I wanted out of Satanic Hispanics.

And on a horror-fan level, I walked away mostly satisfied as well. Sure, this film is far from perfect, and there are parts of it that I really don’t like, but on the whole, the good in it ultimately outweighs the bad. In particular, the frame story and the first segment, “También Lo Vi,” are excellent, so if nothing else, I’d recommend giving Satanic Hispanics a watch for those two stories alone.

Satanic Hispanics is set to hit theaters on September 14.

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Written by JP Nunez

JP Nunez is a lifelong horror fan. From a very early age, he learned to love monsters, ghosts, and all things spooky, and it's still his favorite genre today.

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