Coming like a bat out of hell to theaters September 14th is the long-anticipated Latino anthology horror film Satanic Hispanics. Filmmakers Mike Mendez (Big Ass Spider!) and Alejandro Brugués (Juan of the Dead) spearhead this fun, yet creepy grindhouse-like horror adventure, combining their artistic forces with horror filmmakers Eduardo Sánchez (The Blair Witch Project), Gigi Saul Guerrero (Culture Shock), and Demián Rugna (Terrified). These five Latinos groundbreakers in horror bring their unique styles in distinctive segments that are intertwined in a police investigation of a mysterious and sadistic massacre, with a lone survivor telling horrific tales that are beyond belief.
All five directors share what films and filmmakers impacted them, how Satanic Hispanics came to be, their segments, and the importance of Latino participation in horror.
What is your favorite horror movie?
Mendez: I have two, my favorite horror movie and the best horror movie. The best horror movie is The Exorcist. My favorite horror movie is Evil Dead II because it is so much fun and inventive. It's one guy in a cabin for the most part, but the amount of imagination that is consistent and nonstop has affected everything I've ever done filmmaking-wise. I just love it. It's how I learned to be a filmmaker.
Brugués: I'll do the same. I think the best is Jaws. Obviously so much better than Mike's choice. I'm gonna stick to Evil Dead II. It's the first one I saw and it's the horror movie that changed my life. But I enjoy Evil Dead II much more personally.
Sánchez: That's a tough one. For me, it's The Exorcist because it was just kind of all-consuming. I remember when The Exorcist came on TV, late 70s, I was like 9 or 10 years old. Luckily, it was the edited version. I remember sitting on my mom's lap watching The Exorcist. She was very religious like, “If you believe in Jesus, you got to believe in Satan.” It's just something creepy. Something really, really evil about that was captured on film.
Guerrero: My favorite cult horror movie is Santa Sangre. I love that movie so much. It's so weird. I love the fact that it takes place in Mexico City, right in the heart of a circus of freaks. There's just so much weird craziness in that movie. It was probably one of the first very controversial films I saw at a younger age, in film school. I want to make Santa Sangre, the remake one day. That's still a dream. One of my favorite movies that's my top to recommend, I always tell people to check out REC and REC 2.
Rugna: I guess our generation is influenced by The Exorcist, which scared me more. This is probably my first place. And second place is not actually a scary movie, but The Lost Boys. I love that movie. I guess both are my favorites.
As directors which directors influenced you the most?
Mendez: Mine are Sam Raimi and John Carpenter.
Brugués: I would have to go with Rammi too. In [my segment] The Hammer of Zanzibar, there are two very clear influences, Rammi, and Quentin Tarantino. And obviously Spielberg. One made me fall in love with movies. One made me fall in love with horror movies. And the other made me think, “I want to do that.”
Sánchez: For me, early on, it was Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. Because Star Wars really got me interested in just how the hell did they made that movie. I love the American Graffiti. So there was history there. And I was like, “Man, I can't believe that same guy that did American Graffiti did Star Wars.” Then Spielberg with Jaws and Close Encounters and obviously Raiders of the Lost Ark. So there was a little bit of “Oh my God. There's people that are making multiple movies.”
Recently, everybody including Demián. I love Terrified. You learn every time you watch a good horror movie. So, you're influenced all the time by everybody.
Guerrero: For me, it’s Robert Rodriguez and Rob Zombie.
Rugna: I’ve been really influenced by the 80s directors, Steven Spielberg, John Carpenter, and Sam Rami. More in 2000s, Guillermo Del Toro and Quentin Tarantino. I feel that these people were the directors I wanted to be.
How did you come up with the concept for Satanic Hispanics?
Mendez: I’d done an anthology previously with Epic Pictures called Tales of Halloween and they were open to doing another anthology film. But it's always difficult to find a reason, a purpose, and a point of view to do it. There's so many good anthologies like VHS, Nightmare Cinema, and Tales from the Hood. I wanted to find a point of view and to find a reason to do it. Then, Alejandro jokingly said, “When are we making Satanic Hispanics, the all-Latino horror anthology?” It was like, “When are we making that?” And so, here we are.
Brugués: You know, it's funny because he always says that he was the one that made the joke, and I'm completely sure it was him. But I'm happy to take the credit.
Mendez: You jokingly said, “Why don't we make Satanic Hispanic, the Latino horror anthology?” And it was just one of those things like your waiting for the laugh, and it was just like, no, that makes total sense. Why aren't we?
How were you recruited for Satanic Hispanics?
Sánchez: I knew Alejandro and Mike. I knew Alejandro more from some TV work that we had done together, and we became friends. And we’re Cuban, so we were always messing with each other. Then, he and Mike came up with this idea of Satanic Hispanics. Just the name of it and the anthology. He invited me and I was like, “Oh my God! I gotta do it!” And that was it. How could you not be a part of a movie called Satanic Hispanics, if you have the opportunity to be?
Guerrero: The thing I remember the most is how I immediately said yes when Mike told me the name. I'm so glad that that name never changed. I didn't know yet what it was going to consist of, and the whole awesome connective tissue with The Traveler. But just being called up by one of your friends to tell you their idea that you can be part of. And with a title like that, you can't help but say yes.
It was also such good timing because I think all of us were feeling just how hard the industry can be for our types of voices. I was definitely at a place where I was feeling a lot of rejection. At that time, I was doubtful of my skills as a filmmaker. And when Alejandro and Mike contacted me, it was kind of the perfect five minutes that I was in a bad mood. I'm like, “Fuck yeah! I'll do this.” That's why my segment is so violent. This is the opportunity to be me.
Rugna: Alejandro did invite me too. But the difference is, I didn't know him. I didn't know the rest of the directors. I met with Gigi. She was the only director I already knew. I saw all of the movies of these people and I love them.
I said to Alejandro, “Well, I don't think I could make my segment. So use my name if you need it. Put me in the folder. And I will try to do the best if I can.” Honestly, I thought I never make it possible, because I’ve been shooting my movie during a lot of time, with a lot of problems. But found a way to shoot it.
But Alejandro insisted all the time, calling me, sending me messages. I'm very grateful to Alejandro to invite me to be a part of the project.
Sánchez: Yeah, Alejandro’s like a mosquito. Once he knows, he starts coming at you. Then you're like, “Okay. Okay. Enough. I'll do it.”
Mike, your segment felt very A Fistful of Dollars. Was that an influence on your segment or was there something else?
Mendez: A certain degree, I'd say Sergio Leone, for sure. Absolutely. I don't want to say too much. But there's a character called The Odd Man. When he appears, it’s with this Sergio Leone and spaghetti western vibe.
Alejandro: Your segment felt like was heavily influenced by Evil Dead? How did Evil Dead influence the direction you took with your segment?
Brugués: Oh, absolutely. Actually, the original idea of my segment was to make a feature where everything that's narrated there happens. It has two big influences. On one hand, Tarantino, because I wanted to use that kind of structure, moving back and forth in chapters, and only going to the interesting parts. And of course, I also wanted to pay homage to Evil Dead.
With my original idea, I thought, “Can I make this as a feature, setting it partly in Cuba? And make it like the Cuban cousin of the Kandarian Demon? And I can call it Mullah Muerte.” Mullah Muerte was the title of Evil Dead when I watched it as a kid back in Cuba. So, Evil Dead is heavily in the DNA.
Eduardo, your segment has a wonderful comedic energy. What was the comedic influence for it?
Sánchez: For me, it was Hemky Madera. I had met him when I was doing Queen the South and we became friends. He mostly does serious kinds of roles. And I knew that he had such great comedic timing, even in a serious role. He has a little bit of that comedic edge. Onset, he was always goofing around and just really funny.
This story came across my desk and I thought this is a cool story. I asked Hemky, “Do you want to do this? This vampire couple gets stuck, and this thing happens.” He said, “Yeah, I’m in.”
I do a lot of television and I never really get to do straight comedy. All you got to do is point the camera at Hemky and he goes. That was really the inspiration for me. Just to be free. And just be loose. And just let Hemky do his thing in front of the camera.
Gigi, in your work, you’ve developed this signature of really dirty, nasty-looking teeth, which is very visible in your segment. How important is it to include this small, but impactful visual to your horror?
Guerrero: I like making sure audiences can not just feel what's on the frame, but they can smell and taste it. I think if something is so visceral that you are uncomfortable and you don't know why until you can point out like, “Oh God! Their teeth!” You know, that feeling. I think all of us have seen in person something that grosses us. So, I want people to have that sensation.
Demian, in both the cinematography of Terrified and your segment, it’s very driven by color. There’s green lighting at night and gray lighting during the day. How important is color in your storytelling?
Rugna: Yeah. It was the same DOP and probably the lack of ideas. It’s more important for the segment of Satanic Hispanics.
My first idea was that the guy was trapped inside of a Rubik’s Cube. When I talked with my production designer, I wanted a lot of points of colors, all the time in the windows. When you see the glass in the window, you have different colors, even in the same scene. That was some kind of idea. The place is moving like a Rubik’s Cube.
In another idea, I was trying to find a way to move the cameras like how the Rubik’s Cube moves, horizontally and vertically. But it was a lot of work, so I got rid of this idea when I shot the segment. There's too much movement, too many elements, with dollies and cranes. I have no money for that. I have no time to shoot that. The color is important for the sense we want to share. But it's more important in Satanic Hispanics than in Terrified.
How important is it to have Latino-directed and orientated projects?
Mendez: I think it's incredibly important. There's just such a lack of it. I feel a lot of the representation that does happen isn't the representation we want. I'll give you an example. Last Hispanic Heritage Month, DC Comics made a Latino Green Lantern. Great. Awesome. And that was cool. But then, at the last second, someone decided he's not Latino enough, and put a bag of tamales in his hand. That's not what we're going for. That's not a step forward.
We want to tell stories that weren't typical Latin stories. We wanted to tell stories about our folklore, from our culture, from our roots, and just stories that were different from crossing the border, drug cartels, and all the stories that we kind of are usually painted with. Want to just to expand the conversation and what a Latino story could be.
Brugués: I think we're at a very important moment in the industry where things are changing. Still baby steps. I have the feeling Latinos are still being left behind with all of that. Like right now, there's such a nice, diverse Latino output out there. You have Blue Beetle. You have Satanic Hispanics. We also just had Flamin’ Hot a couple of months ago and Miguel Wants to Fight on Hulu. So there's like a bunch of different great Latino movies. And I think the second part of our work, as an audience, is to go watch them and support what we're doing, because if that doesn't happen. It doesn't count.
Guerrero: Yeah, it's definitely that time where we're the ones responsible for change. So if we're not taking those opportunities to be ourselves and challenge audiences with these stories, then change is not going to happen. So it's really up to us filmmakers, especially in the indie world, and for audiences to keep spreading the word of how much they liked a movie that's so good, and it's got subtitles.
Why do you think Latinos love horror so much?
Sánchez: That's a good question, I don’t know, because we do love horror. In the United States, you look at the breakdown of horror movies and there's a much larger Hispanic audience participation than other movies. It's crazy how much percentage-wise, the Hispanic community goes to horror movies. They really are the key to it. At least in the United States, there's such an immigrant experience. And there's so much pain involved in that and in real life really scary situations. I think that maybe we're better equipped for horror movies. We can digest them.
Damien, could soccer star Lionel Messi survive a horror movie?
Rugna: Yes. I think he’d dribble around the monsters, making a goal, as he used to do here [in Argentina].