17 Perfectly Creepy Horror Movies By Latinos To Watch Before You Die
If you love movies in general and scary movies in particular, you would do well to recognize that Latinos have given the world many dazzling cinematic gems, particularly in the horror genre (probably because we’re just so damn goth). Here are 17 creepy, gross, chilling, terrifying and wonderfully bizarre movies by Latinos that you need to check out before a crying, eyeless woman greets you in a fog-filled field. For the purposes of this list, “Latino” refers both to U.S.-born Latinos and Latinos born in Latin America, and horror can include slasher, torture porn, particularly frightening thrillers, and your mom’s home movies. OK, let’s do this:
1. The Devil’s Backbone (El espinazo del diablo)
Director: Guillermo del Toro
I originally had four (4) del Toro movies on this list and had to narrow it down to two, which was like picking from among one’s children. (I assume picking a favorite child is equally difficult as picking a favorite movie, yes? I knew it.) But here’s the thing: You’ve already seen The Devil’s Backbone. You already know the deal: Spanish Civil War, orphanage, defused bomb, mysterious ghost-boy. So I’ll use this space to share this link to the story of why del Toro often distances himself from a movie taken off the list: Mimic. Because there’s always a place for classic ghost stories, but never enough for giant mutant insects.
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Here’s our other del Toro entry: Cronos! Because who doesn’t love a good, inventive twist on a vampire story that also serves as a metaphor for society’s obsession with youth and virility? Cronos beat out Crimson Peak because, while the latter is truly a beautiful, visually stunning work, Cronos‘ story of love, loss and sacrifice simply holds up better throughout the film.
3. Santa Sangre
Director: Alejandro Jodorowsky
No one does avant-garde psychedelic weirdness like Jodorowsky. Santa Sangre is no exception, following the story of Fenix, a former circus performer, and his relationship to his parents, particularly to the mother who keeps a literal and figurative hold on him through much of his development. Roger Ebert praised Jodorowsky for expanding the horror genre by reminding viewers that “true psychic horror is possible on the screen–horror, poetry, surrealism, psychological pain and wicked humor, all at once.”
4. The Book of Stone (El libro de piedra)
Director: Carlos Enrique Taboada
Because the only thing more frightening that creepy children are creepy statues of children. The Book of Stone deals with a near-universal story–the alienation children feel when adults don’t listen to them–but how it unravels will leave you delightfully creeped out.
5. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Director: George Romero
Did you know George Romero’s dad was Cuban? (I did, because like all Cubans, I keep a running list.) Well, he is! And so Romero is on this here list. Now, you’ve very likely already seen his opus, Night of the Living Dead, and know its contributions to the zombie genre, effectively changing the pop culture perception of zombies from corpses controlled by others through ritual means, to undead jerkwads lumbering slowly towards you while you take shelter in a shack or perhaps, later, in a shopping mall. But that doesn’t mean you can’t watch it again. And again and again.
Director: George Romero
So while Romero is best known for his zombie movies, he also added a little something to the vampire genre with Martin, a film about a weird young man (#NotAllWeirdYoungMen) who has a unique way of procuring his victims’ blood–it involves a syringe, and quite a lot of mess. And, because this is Romero, there’s not only a lot (like, a lot a lot) of blood, but also a good dose of satire and commentary on who we are, who we think we are, and how society views us.
7. At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul (À meia-noite levarei sua alma)
Director: José Mojica Marins
You can’t talk about great horror villains without mentioning Brazil’s wholly unique, fantastically evil contribution to the genre: Coffin Joe (Zé do Caixão). Joe is an utterly depraved maniac set on finding himself a nice lady to settle down with, as one does, and sometimes that means murdering a whole bunch of people. He’s the star of Mojica Marins’ fantastically depraved “Coffin Joe trilogy,” which includes the equally wonderfully-titled This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse (1967), and the somewhat less wonderfully-titled Embodiment of Evil (2008). Watch out, literally, for Joe’s long, curled fingernails, as they’re liable to poke an eye out.
8. The Curse of the Crying Woman (La maldición de la llorona)
Director: Rafael Baledón
We’re all familiar with the legend of La Llorona, right? It’s a classic horror story, replete with loss, gut-churning guilt, and the need for sweet, sweet vengeance. It’s a wonder there haven’t been more (and, you know, better) movies based on the mother of all ghosts. This film, for instance, isn’t so much about La Llorona herself (although her scenes are truly, gorgeously frightening), but about a family grappling with witchcraft and curses. Relatable!
9. The Witch’s Mirror (El espejo de la bruja)
Director: Chano Urueta
Pro tip: Never murder your wife in front of a witch’s mirror. Pro trip, part II: Stay away from witch’s mirrors altogether. Because then your dead wife might come back, and she’s going to be pretty pissed. Exciting, witchy story aside, this black and white film features some pretty gorgeous use of lighting and cinematography, as well as one of the most iconic uses of bandages ever.
Director: Juan López Moctezuma
Being a teen girl is hard enough, never mind being an orphan in a Catholic convent. Add demonic possession into the mix and you have a recipe for disaster / a truly fantastic horror movie with stunning visuals (just take a look at the nuns’ super stylized and highly evocative habits and robes, for instance). The film’s emphasis on a close emotional and physical relationship between two young girls has drawn comparisons to the classic vampire tale, Carmilla, made all the more apparent when you notice that “Alucarda” is simply “Dracula” with the letters rearranged. SpoooOoOooky!
11. The Mansion of Madness (Dr. Tarr’s Torture Dungeon)
Director: Juan López Moctezuma
This film, also by Juan López Moctezuma, is a personal favorite of mine. As in, I own it on DVD and watch it over and over. Very loosely based on Edgar Allen Poe’s “The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether,” the story shows what happens when lunatics take over the asylum. It also happens to be a GORGEOUS movie, with every shot, costume, look and line carefully staged for maximum impact and weirdness. Take the scene, for instance, where two characters are walking down a long path as some of the asylum’s inhabitants playfully, and somewhat unnervingly, weave in and out of shot. You can take a look at it, and enjoy an in-depth synopsis, at Cinema de Merde.
12. We What We Are (Somos lo que hay)
Director: Jorge Michel Grau
The family that eats together, stays together, for better or for worse. In this film, which was remade for U.S. audiences in 2013, follows a family struggling with maintaining an ancient, bloody ritual and the impact it has both on their bodies and souls. You’ll never look at family dinners the same way again.
13. From Dusk Till Dawn
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Vampires, as it turns out, can take on all sorts of day jobs, like dancing at the infamous “Titty Twister” strip club. Robert Rodriguez’s pulpy take on vampires takes place in a small town in Mexico and includes plenty of bikers, truck drivers, fugitives, and the site of an ancient Aztec temple. Also, obviously and famously, Salma Hayek dancing with a snake.
Director: Andrés Muschietti
Argentine director Andrés Muschietti based his feature film about a spooky-but-maternal ghosts, Mama, on his own 2008, Spanish-language short, Mamá. You can watch the whole thing here, but make sure to keep the lights on. Muschietti is definitely one to watch: He’s at the helm for a new adaptation of Stephen King’s It.
15. Sangre Eterna (Eternal blood)
Director: Jorge Olguín
Our second reference to Carmilla on this list, Sangre Eterna deals with a teen girl named (You guessed it!) Carmilla, a group of gloriously goth Chilean vampires, and the ancient ritual that makes ’em that way. The makeup and special effects in this film are low-key but effective, especially in how it uses color for maximum impact. Just check out the image above and try to tell me those milky-blue eyes and red, red blood don’t compliment each other nicely.
16. Magic, Magic
Director: Sebastián Silva
OK, fine, you can argue that this more of a psychological thriller than a true horror film, but Michael Cera’s truly frightening performance as a disturbing weirdo seals its place on this list. The film deals with the idea of being an outsider–to a group of friends, to a culture, to a way of thinking–in the most dramatic and uncomfortable way possible.
17. Cold Sweat
Director: Adrián García Bogliano
There is a whole lot of torture–both physical and mental, on the protagonists and viewers alike–in this Argentine film about, well. About torture. And Argentina. It includes several homages to films within the horror genre, which is always a nice little extra for horror fans.
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