By: Jack Tomas
Halloween and Dia de Los Muertos. The two go together like sugar skulls and tooth decay. One is an ancient pagan holiday that nowadays is celebrated by having kids extort candy from their neighbors. In the other, we Latinos honor our beloved dead by building altars to their memory and having a picnic on their grave, (no one said we weren’t weird). For us this world and the spirit realm aren’t far apart, ask your abuela. Maybe it’s the connection we have to the world of the dead that make us Spanish speakers such awesome horror directors.
One of the best is Spanish director Paco Plaza. Paco is back to scare the living crap out of you with the Rec 3, the third installment in his Rec saga. The first two films took place mostly in an apartment building where a mysterious distress call leads to a camera crew, that’s filming a day in the life of a squad of firemen, getting an unpleasant surprise. The second film has a SWAT team, or whatever they call it in Ethpaña, coming in to clear the place out but…um…it doesn’t work. The first two films were so terrifying because they all took place in the claustrophobic environment of a seemingly abandoned building. It feeds into our primal reptilian brain’s fear of the dark and being trapped. In Rec 3 the cat is out of the proverbial bag as a wedding is crashed by the buildings…tenants, I guess you’d call them. In the spirit of scaring you to death in Spanish, here are 5 of our favorite Spanish language horror films.
EL HOMBRE SIN ROSTRO – THE MAN WITHOUT A FACE (1950)
You know what’s frightening? Serial killers. You know what’s even scarier? Serial killers without a face. The film uses lots of shadows and fog, clearly influenced by film noir. It’s the story of a police detective that is hunting a sadistic killer. He keeps having nightmares about a faceless man…which is creeeeeepppyyy. There is a twist halfway through the film you will not see coming. But I won’t tell you so it will be a surprise.
JUAN DE LOS MUERTOS – JUAN OF THE DEAD (2011)
I know it sounds like a remake of the English horror/comedy classic Sean of the Dead, but it’s much more than that. It’s the story of a loser named Juan who decides to start a zombie killing business after Havana is overrun by the undead. It’s an effective zombie movie as well as being totally hilarious. It is one of the first horror films to come out of Cuba, made jointly with a Spanish production company. It also throws a few jabs at the Castro government for treating the zombie menace as a secret CIA plot.
EL DIA DE LA BESTIA –THE DAY OF THE BEAST (1995)
Maybe it’s because of the Catholic upbringing most of most of us Spanish speakers, but we are both fascinated and terrorized by the devil. In this film a priest discovers that the anti-Christ is about to be born somewhere in Spain. How will he discover hell’s maternity ward so he can murder the baby? By summoning up Satan with the help of a metal head and a TV psychic, of course! Kids, don’t try this at home
EL ESPINAZO DEL DIABLO – THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE (2001)
Children are creepy. They are more in tune with the spirit world than we jaded adults. In this film, directed by master horror director Guillermo del Toro, a young boy is left in an orphanage after the bloody Spanish civil war. An isolated, dark, and ominous orphanage would be bad enough without all the ghostly stuff going on in there. This one kept me up for a while and I was already in my twenties when I saw it.
LA CASA MUDA – THE SILENT HOUSE (2010)
Yikes. I just saw this movie a few weeks ago with my mom and she didn’t sleep that night. The film is about a girl named Laura who, along with her dad, decides to spend the night in their new house in rural Uruguay, which is…a bit of a “fixer upper”. Things don’t go well. Much like the Hitchcock classic Rope, the entire film is shot in one continuous sequence with no cuts at all. It immerses you in the action, making you feel like you are living the moments as Laura is living them. Oh and it’s a true story.
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