'Satanic Hispanics' review: Horror anthology is a mixed bag of trick-less treats
7 mins read

'Satanic Hispanics' review: Horror anthology is a mixed bag of trick-less treats



The highs and lows of Satanic Hispanics — a horror anthology consisting of four shorts and a frame story tying them together, with directors including Mike Mendez (Big Ass Spider!), Demián Rugna (Terrified), Eduardo Sánchez (The Blair Witch Project), Gigi Saul Guerrero (El Gigante), and Alejandro Brugués (Juan of the Dead) — are many. And while the lows are numerous, the movie is not without some thrills. However, the erratic tone as the film switches between the genuinely scary, the comedic, and the downright silly leaves something to be desired. Spooky vibes alone are not enough to sustain the overarching narrative, and the vastly different stories don’t seem to take place in the same world.

What’s Satanic Hispanics about?

Our journey begins with the Traveler (Efren Ramirez), the only known survivor from a group of traveling migrants found dead in El Paso, Texas, in what looks like a cartel confrontation gone bad. The Traveler’s story is the device that ties the rest of the anthology together — investigators are fumbling around the facts in what feels like a low-rent episode of Law & Order until the Traveler begins divulging stories about people he’s come across in his journey. These tales include frightening recountings of unexplained terrors, like inexplicable portals and other worlds, along with downright silly anecdotes, like one about a vampire run afoul with his wife and a demonic killer dildo. Yes, you read that right. 

The Traveler also has a story of his own. He is on the run from San La Muerte, a skeletal figure who will stop at nothing to kill our hero — unless he dispatches the deathly apparition with a sacred gun and bullet. Time is ticking with each successive story, and if the police won’t let the Traveler go, they too will soon face death. 

Satanic Hispanics starts strong but loses its suspense quickly.

While Satanic Hispanics gets off to a bumpy start in the opening segment directed by Mike Mendez (Big Ass Spider!), Ramirez does his best to keep a sense of mystery and spookiness as he’s being interviewed by bumbling cops ill-equipped to handle his supernatural case. He’s serious and delivers the right amount of defensiveness and frustration of a man who knows that everyone is in danger, but no one will listen. 

A scene from

“También Lo Vi” is the strongest short in the group.
Credit: Epic Pictures

The Traveler then tells a story, introduced in the movie as “Chapter 2: También Lo Vi,” which comes from Argentine director Demián Rugna (Terrified), whose next film, When Evil Lurks, arrives just in time for peak spooky season next month. In “También Lo Vi,” a young man in Argentina named Gustavo sees what others can’t, and it’s slowly destroying his life. His concerned sister calls him often on WhatsApp, and over the course of one night, things go terribly awry as the invisible horrors he sees become reality. The film is short and spooky — it’s easily the strongest entry of the batch. Unfortunately, things only go downhill from here. 

Our next chapter, short three, is titled “El Vampiro,” and instead of being appropriately creepy, we get a domestic comedy about a vampire husband who doesn’t listen to his long-suffering vampire wife; she’s forced to decide if she should risk burning in broad daylight to come rescue him from a misadventure in town. It seems like a Latine riff on What We Do in the Shadows, but it’s not nearly as clever or funny. Instead, Cuban American director Eduardo Sánchez (co-director and co-writer of the original Blair Witch Project) opts for weak head-of-the-household jokes and silly gags, like cops who can’t tell real gore from fake until after posing with a severed head. It’s the first significant tonal shift in the series, but it’s not the last. 

The Traveler then leads us to Mexican director Gigi Saul Guerrero’s “Nahuales,” a folk horror tale of a C.I.A. informant who falls in the hands of an ancient Indigenous people. This short is particularly confusing, and goes from being a quasi-spy thriller about a man trying to escape before it’s too late to a Mexican take on The Wicker Man. The tone here is serious and scary, but that feeling is short-lived. The cops scoff at the story and ask the Traveler, “Do you expect us to believe that?”

A scene from

Mexican director Gigi Saul Guerrero’s “Nahuales.”
Credit: Epic Pictures

The last story before San la Muerte arrives begins with no title (it’s eventually revealed to be “The Hammer of Zanzibar”) and a guy named Malcolm (Jonah Ray Rodrigues), who’s figured out that he and his friends are marked for death for recording a sacred ceremony on their trip to Cuba. He tries to confront the last remaining survivor, his ex-girlfriend, but she’s probably already demonically possessed, so he arrives prepared to kill the evil spirit with a large wooden dildo called The Hammer of Zanzibar. ​​Argentinian-Cuban director Alejandro Brugués (Juan of the Dead) starts with a great premise but goes a bit off the rails for the sake of a laugh. The relationship drama is strong and funny material, but when the story brings in a big dildo named after an African archipelago in order to kill a woman who’s possessed, things get a bit uncomfortable to watch, and not in a good way. 

Despite missteps, Satanic Hispanics hopefully points to more horror movies from Latine directors.

Jonah Ray Rodrigues in

“The Hammer of Zanzibar” starts with a great premise.
Credit: Epic Pictures

Things come to a head in the last short, as the Traveler and San la Muerte finally face off. Enduring the Keystone Cop school of inquiry as a framing device pays off, as somehow the police have everything the Traveler needs to fight Death itself. Mendez brings the unwieldy collection to a satisfying conclusion in a slow-motion showdown between San la Muerte, the police department, and the Traveler. 

Even if these shorts really don’t make much sense together beyond the ethnicity of their creators, it’s an interesting showcase for a number of the directors who have more scary features and projects in the works. And, of course, there’s the benefit to an anthology: If you don’t like what you’re watching, just wait a few minutes, and a new short will take over.

Satanic Hispanics was reviewed out of its theatrical release. It is now streaming on Shudder.



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