Satanic Hispanics

Satanic Hispanics

2023, R, 113 min. Directed by Alejandro Brugués, Gigi Saul Guerrero, Mike Mendez, Demián Rugna, Eduardo Sánchez. Starring Efren Ramirez, Greg Grunberg, Sonya Eddy, Demián Salomón, Hemky Madera, Ari Gallegos, Gabriela Ruíz, Jonah Ray Rodrigues, Danielle Chaves.

REVIEWED By Richard Whittaker, Fri., Sept. 15, 2023

Anthology films are tricky. While they are a mainstay of one genre in particular – horror – they also represent its variations. They can be thematically linked, like the folk horror of The Field Guide to Evil or the found footage vibe of the V/H/S franchise. They can be woven together by a narrative into a portmanteau, such as the Austin-made Scare Package films or The Mortuary Collection. But the most important demand is that they feel of a whole and build together to make the collection make sense, rather than just feeling like a series of shorts stapled together.

The thematic link for Satanic Hispanics is cultural and geographic. In many ways, it's a successor to 2015's México Bárbaro – and not just because both draw heavily from Fantastic Fest alumni, or because they share a segment director in Gigi Saul Guerrero (Bingo Hell). However, while the earlier film was solely about Mexican filmmakers, the directors assembled here represent Latino cinema from across the Americas.

The wraparound is provided by Los Angeleno Mike Mendez (FF alum, class of 2016, Don't Kill It) with the story of the Traveler, a mysterious figure (Ramirez) recounting bizarre tales of the supernatural to two disbelieving cops, Detectives Arden (Grunberg) and Gibbons (Eddy).

However, those tales never quite find a consistent tone. There is a certain wry humor in opener "Tambien Lo Vi," the excellently chilling entrance from Demián Rugna (director of the utterly unnerving FF 2017 selection Terrified), who lets a disturbed and lonely landlord (Salomón) channel Hellraiser's Lament Configuration through a Rubik's Cube. It sounds goofy, but Rugna's a master of unease that slowly captivates.

But that mood of suffocating dread is followed by a rapid shift into comedy vampire hijinks in "El Vampiro" from The Blair Witch Project co-director Eduardo Sánchez, a What We Do in the Shadows-esque romp in which a cape-and-ruffled-shirt bloodsucker (a game Madera) finds himself on the wrong side of daylight saving time. Honestly, with the sense of silliness, if you didn't know better, you'd swear this was Mike "Madman" Mendez at the helm, proving Sánchez should do comedy more often.

But then it's another radical change of tone for Guerrero's "Nahuales," in which a criminal (Gallegos) comes face-to-face with a vengeful Madre Tierra (Ruíz). It's a short but elegant political and ecological allegory, but in three segments Satanic Hispanics has zipped between high Gothic, hijinks, and activist metaphor. They're all entertaining, but every time the action cuts back to the diffident Traveler – who keeps threatening dire consequences if he's not immediately released – you'll wonder why he doesn't tell pithier, more connected stories. By the time Cuban horror pioneer Alejandro Brugués (FF 2011, Juan of the Dead) starts wielding the extremely silly "The Hammer of Zanzibar" (complete with its highly entertaining and puerile theme song), you'll know to just embrace the erratic craziness.

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Satanic Hispanics, Alejandro Brugués, Gigi Saul Guerrero, Mike Mendez, Demián Rugna, Eduardo Sánchez, Efren Ramirez, Greg Grunberg, Sonya Eddy, Demián Salomón, Hemky Madera, Ari Gallegos, Gabriela Ruíz, Jonah Ray Rodrigues, Danielle Chaves

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