Halloween is here, and while some are getting ready with their Latino-inspired costumes for a night or trick-or-treating or partying, the homebodies out there might be looking to make it a Blockbuster night. RIP Blockbuster Video.
For you horror fans looking for something a little bit different — maybe something new, something scary, something that uses the genre in order to creatively delve into social issues and gender roles, then award-winning horror filmmaker Michelle Garza Cervera has you covered.
CREDIT: Michelle Garza Cervera
“Gender issues have been present in horror films since the beginning of cinema. Monsters with specific gender and bodily differences exist in most classic horror films,” says Garza Cervera, a Mexico City-native who makes movies that bring a much-needed Latin American and female perspective to the genre.
“Even though gender was present, it has mostly kept a one-sided perspective since the majority of directors and producers have been male, which causes most of the spectators to also be male,” she adds. “This reality has created stereotypical female characters that are molded by writers and directors that are not interested in understanding the real complexity of femininity and doesn’t allow the female spectators to deeply empathize with the characters.”
However, Garza Cervera and many others are looking to change that. The filmmaker has written and directed short films that have been selected in more than 40 international film festivals, with her short film “Clara’s Rage” winning several awards, including Best National Short at the Campeche Film Festival. She’s currently writing her first feature film thanks to support from the Mexican Institute of Cinematography.
CREDIT: Clara’s Rage / Michelle Garza Cervera
“Fortunately, there are more and more different perspectives inside the horror genre, not only in gender but also in race and culture, which only makes horror films richer and stronger,” she says. “There are great example of horror movies that use the characteristics of its genre to understand it’s characters, their context and cultural background and make a metaphor of the real human conflict that she or he is facing.”
It’s a good thing Garza Cervera comes with some solid spooky and terrifying recommendations. Here’s her list of eight horror films with a socially conscious slant for your Halloween pleasure.
CREDIT: A still from “El Paramo.” Credit: Rotten Tomatoes/Rhayuela Cine
“It’s a psychological thriller that talks about the conflict with the guerrilla in Colombia through the story of a squad of soldiers stuck with a woman in a military base in the middle of the mountains,” explains Garza Cervera.
It’s available for free on Vudu and for rent on Amazon, YouTube, iTunes and Google Play.
CREDIT: From “Siete Veses Siete,” featured in “México Bárabro I.” Credit: No Real Danger/Simplemente Films
In this horror anthology from Mexico, eight directors created a 10-minute segment to tell a story that revolves around Mexican traditions and legends, and the result is horrifying. Garza Cervera’s segment, “Vitriol,” appears in “México Bárbaro II’
Pat I is available on Netflix. Both parts are available for rent on Amazon.
CREDIT: A still from “Mujer Lobo.” Photo credit: Cleveland International Festival/Crudo Films
“This movie shows an empowered woman dealing with our patriarchal world,” says Garza Cervera. “It is a clear example of how genre can be used with a complete different perspective and transform the person who is usually the victim character into a strong woman, owner of her life and decisions.” How does this character do this? By seducing men she meets in the Buenos Aires subway, having sex with them, then murdering them. Neat!
CREDIT: Looking for The Babadook. Photo credit: Pitch.com/Causeway Films
Jennifer Kent’s first feature film tells the story of a single mom facing her inner fears of raising a child by herself. Those fears take the form of what Garza Cerver calls an “amazing antagonist.” The Babadook is creepy and wears a top hat, and somehow has also become a gay icon.
You can rent “The Babadook” on YouTube, iTunes, Amazon and Google Play, or stream on Showtime.
CREDIT: A scene from Get Out. Photo Credit: The Mary Sue/Monkeypaw Productions.
“Get Out” was one of the biggest films of 2017, telling the story of a young black man who goes to meet his white girlfriend’s family in the middle of the woods. That’s when shit gets crazy, and racist af.
“This is an amazing horror film that tells a great and thrilling story, and makes a deep analysis of the kind of not-in-your-face racism within liberal white people,” says Garza Ververa.
Rent “Get Out” on Amazin, Vudu, iTunes or Google Play. It’s also available on HBO.
CREDIT: A creepy child in “El Espinazo del Diablo.” Photo credit: Groucho Reviews/Canal+ /Good Machine
Before Guillermo del Toro became one of the biggest directors in Hollywood, he made a name for himself with this film — one of his earlier works. “El Espinazo del Diablo,” or “The Devil’s Backbone,” tells the story of a 12-year-old boy who ends up in a haunted orphanage. Del Toro loves a creepy child story, and this is one of his firsts.
“One of the bests from this masterful director,” says Garza Cervera. “It is a poetic ghost story that talks about the horrors of war.”
Watch on YouTube, Amazon, Vudu, Google Play and iTunes.
CREDIT: Trouble Every Day is bloody good. Photo credit: CineFiles/Arte France Cinema
This existential French horror film delves into gender roles through the story of an American couple on their honeymoon in Paris, experiments in the human libido, and the imprisonment of a woman. It gets pretty bloody. Garza Cervera calls it “one of the first movies from the new French extremity wave.”
Available for streaming on Amazon Prime.
CREDIT: Rebeca A Estas Alturas. Photo credit: Vimeo/La Fabrica Films Mexico
Garza Cervera calls this Mexican short film one of her favorites of all time. It’s the story of a mother and housewife who has a very hard time succumbing to those roles.
“It is a clever story that talks about the inner trouble housewives deal with in a fantastic way,” she says.
Watch the whole thing on Vimeo.