Latino Horror Cinema: Undiscovered Halloween Treats


By Brian Woodman Jr.

Few readers may be aware that Latino horror cinema exists and that it actually ranges as far back as 1931. When Universal Studios produced “Dracula” with Bela Lugosi it simultaneously shot another version in Spanish, according to “In Search of Dracula” by Radu Florescu and Raymond McNally.
For those of us who  grew up in Massachusetts or New Hampshire during the 70s’ and 80s’, The Creature Double Feature on Boston-based Channel 56  rotated films on the show, a favorite was the Spanish 1966 potboiler “Maneater of Hydra.”  It had a group of people trapped on a Mediterranean island with a bloodsucking tree. The late Cameron Mitchell played a mad botanist in this crudely made but visually lush film.
Another Spanish film,”The Witch,” is from the same era that used to play on cable often, and has a similar feel to “Maneater of Hydra.” Both films feature bright colors, vague religious undertones and odd musical scores.
Latino horror and fantasy filmmakers such as Guillermo el Toro  (“Cronos,” “Pan’s Labyrinth,” “Mama,” “Pacific Rim”), Alejandro Amenabar (“Tesis,” “Open Your Eyes,” “The Others”)  Alex de la Iglesia (“Day of the Beast,” “The Oxford Murders”) Juan Antonio  (“The Orphanage”) and others have also enjoyed critical attention in recent years.
As Halloween approaches, looks at a sampling of the horror films

The Walking Dead Go Blind

Spanish director Amando de Osorio’s “Tomb of the Blind Dead”  (1971) features an order of ancient knights that were blinded and executed for numerous crimes. The knights come back as flesh-eating zombies that hunt by sound. The film spawned three sequels (“Return of the Blind Dead,” “Ghost Galleon” and “Night of the Seagulls”).
Jorge Grau shot the 1974 zombie film, “Jorge Grau’s The Living Dead of Manchester Morgue,” (“Let Sleeping Corpses Lie”) in England and used environmental themes.

Heroic Werewolves

The late Spanish actor and filmmaker Jacino Molina was credited as Paul Naschy when his numerous horror films were released in America. His best known character, Waldemar Daninsky, is a werewolf who is usually pitted against vampires and other monsters to give his relative humanity some scale. Some of his films will be included in a Spanish horror film retrospective at the Anthology Film Archives in New York City beginning on Oct. 30 (refer to the link for more details).

 Run for the Border: Mexican Horror and Masked Wrestlers

Mexicans began producing horror films as early as 1934 with films like “Dos Monjes” (“The Monks”) and “El Fantasma del Convento” (“The Phantom of the Convent”), according to The Encyclopedia of Horror Movies by Phil Hardy. However, Mexico is particularly known in cult film enthusiast circles for films in which masked wrestlers known as luchadoras battle various villains in defense of Mexico.
Although the wrestling films focus on a variety of comic strip threats, horror elements creep into the majority of these films. As recently as 2007, Mexican filmmakers released “Mil Mascaras vs the Aztec Mummy.”
Perhaps the best known of these superhero/wrestler hybrids is Santo (“Silver Mask”), who started making films in the 50s’ and is considered a cultural icon in Mexico. He starred in a variety of films in which he was pitted against vampires, werewolves, Bruja (the Mexican equivalent to witches), and even animated mummies from the exhibit in Guanajuato. He is sometimes accompanied by his sidekick, the Blue Demon, who also starred in a series of similar films.

Read ’em and weep: Crying Ghosts

Other fixture of Mexican horror films as La Llorona, the Crying Woman, who is an authentic fixture of folklore. She is a grief-stricken phantom whose appearance generally means misfortune. She first appeared in horror films during the 30s’, although 1961s’ “Curse of the Crying Woman” is considered by some to be the best film version of the tale.
The website also contains articles for the interested horror fan.