SATANIC HISPANICS movie poster | ©2023 Dread

SATANIC HISPANICS movie poster | ©2023 Dread

Rating: R
Stars: Efren Ramirez, Jonah Ray, Hemky Madera, Patricia Velasquez, Greg Grunberg, Ari Gallegos, Jacob Vargas, Sonya Eddy, Danielle Chavez, Christian Rodrigo, Demián Salomón
Writers: Alejandro Mendez (“The Traveler”), Demián Rugna (“También Lo Vi”), Adam Cesare (“El Vampiro”), Shadan Saul & Raynor Shima (“Nahaules”), Lino K. Villa (“Chapter 5”)
Directors: Mike Mendez (“The Traveler”), Demián Rugna (“También Lo Vi”), Gigi Saul Guerrero (“Nahuales”), Alejandro Brugués (“Chapter 5”), Eduardo Sánchez (“El Vampiro”)
Distributor: Dread
Release Date: September 14, 2023

SATANIC HISPANICS is a lively, bloody, occasionally actually scary horror anthology, made by Latinx filmmakers, and starring a mostly Latinx cast. Some of the stories incorporate Latin American folklore, while others invent their own mythology.

In an introduction, a police SWAT team enters a room full of bloodied, dead young people. In the next room, there is one survivor (Efren Ramirez), who is so desperate to escape that he tries to chop off his own hand.

In “Chapter 1: The Traveler,” written by Alejandro Mendez and directed by Mike Mendez, the survivor is taken in for questioning. We learn we’re in Texas, and the survivor was part of a group of undocumented immigrants. There are twenty-seven dead, including four children, and detectives Arden (Greg Grunberg) and Gibbons (Sonya Eddy) want to know what happened to them.

The survivor’s hand seems to be healing uncommonly fast. He is at first identified as Juan Garcia, but then insists that he is really the Traveler, a five-hundred-year-old immortal. However, he can be killed by the Colombian deity San La Muerte – not to be confused with the Mexican Santa Muerte – and if the Traveler isn’t released in about ninety minutes, San La Muerte will arrive at the police station and annihilate not just him, but everyone else there.

The Traveler then tells a series of stories, which we see play out in various segments, that he hopes will prove what he’s saying.

“Chapter 2: También Lo Vi,” written and directed by Demián Rugna, gives us a variation on the dimensional rift genre. Rubik’s Cube whiz Gustavo (Demián Salomón) fears that he’s lost his spark. He’s been using his keen math skills to create light-and-sound rituals that he conducts in his late grandmother’s house. These are both eerie and funny, eliciting nervous giggles from the viewer.

“Chapter 3: El Vampiro,” written by Adam Cesare and directed by Eduardo Sánchez (co-director of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT), plays like an episode of WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS. A master vampire (Hemky Madera) races to get home before dawn on Halloween night. He commits acts of gruesome bloodshed while frantically trying different modes of transportation and squabbling with his exasperated eternal bride (Patricia Velasquez).

“Chapter 4: Nahuales,” written by Shadan Saul & Raynor Shima and directed by Gigi Saul Guerrero, is set in Catemaco, Mexico. A man, De la Cruz (Ari Gallegos), is leading a horse with a corpse draped over its back. De la Cruz, on the phone with his American handlers, demands extraction from his remote hideout. He’s got even better reasons than he knows for wanting to leave.

“Chapter 5,” written by Lino K. Villa and directed by Alejandro Brugués, doesn’t reveal its title until halfway through. Malcolm (Jonah Ray) believes his friends are systematically being killed after they all spied on a secret ritual. Malcolm’s only hope of survival lies in using a unique weapon. Actor Ray, under the name Jonah Ray Rodrigues, also composed and performed the energetic song “Kill You” that plays on the segment’s soundtrack.

“Chapter 6: San La Muerte” brings us back to the Traveler and his predicament.

Some of the sequences are more comedic than others, with “El Vampiro” going for maximum laughs. “Chapter 5” gives us a zombie-fighting tool that we can virtually guarantee nobody has ever seen before, with a combination of jokes and scares, along with a punchline that’s on the brink of being too real to be humorous.

“Nahuales” is almost a fever dream that is dramatic in tone, while “También Lo Vi” is playful but still has some scares.

The wraparound with the Traveler has some wry points to make. The detectives condescend to the Traveler, assuming he’s illiterate, even though he can speak five languages and they’re limited to English. It also has some well-staged action that explains what we saw in the opening.

The acting varies from naturalistic to broad, depending on the overall tone of the particular sequence, but all of the actors hit the right notes. The special effects are also everything they should be.

There are a few discrepancies. While “The Traveler” works on its own, there are a couple of places where its introductions and epilogues for the other sequences don’t quite match up with the content. (For instance, one character appears permanently trapped, yet evidently winds up somewhere else later, per the Traveler’s narration.)

Still, there’s enough connective tissue to make SATANIC HISPANICS feel like all its pieces belong to the same whole. It’s entertaining, it’s got wit, creativity, and a satisfying amount of jumps.

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