Satanic Hispanics

When an El Paso SWAT team raids a building, they find a horrific number of causalities, including a dead man who appears to raise his gun toward them.  After riddling him with bullets multiple times, they follow the chain attached to his hand into another room where a man (Efren Ramirez, "Napoleon Dynamite's" Pedro) at the other end of it attempts to flee by chopping off his own hand with a hatchet.  Back at the police station, he’ll tell Detectives Arden (Greg Grunberg, "Hollow Man") and Gibbons (Sonya Eddy, "V/H/S/99") that a cartel massacred the others at a coyote safehouse and that he’s a Traveler who’s seen many odd things slipping through time portals and if he’s not released within 90 minutes they will all die.  Recognizing one of the victims in their crime photos, he launches into his first bargaining story in “Satanic Hispanics.”

Laura's Review: B-

Mike Mendez ("Killers") directs ‘The Traveler,’ the wraparound story that connects the four chapters to follow, and if some seem less relevant to The Traveler’s need to get the cops to believe him than others, anthology films are rarely known for consistency.  But “Hispanic Satanics,” while uneven, is more entertaining than most, surprisingly effective when its horror becomes comedic and a great showcase for Latino talent – as the marketing states, this movie is Latino ‘AF.’     

The man The Traveler recognizes is Gustavo (Demián Salomón), a man living in an old house inherited from his grandmother whose only talent appears to be speed-solving Rubik’s Cubes.  But the mathematical algorithms he’s devised to do so by quickly moving a light around colored window panes has the unintended effect of opening up a portal to the dead.  Directed by Demian Rugna, ‘Tambien Lo Vi (I Also Saw It)’ has some eerie moments, but isn’t one of the film’s most memorable.        

Getting more insistent, The Traveler then offers to serve up the perpetrator of an unsolved crime, one in which the victims were found drained of their blood.  “The Blair Witch Project” co-director Eduardo Sanchez delivers one of the funnier chapters with ‘El Vampiro,’ a bit that seems destined to quickly go off the rails but never does because of its witty stupidity, beginning with El Vampiro (game lead Hemky Madera, TV's 'Queen of the South') himself, a bloodsucker enjoying the only night of the year he can hunt openly, Halloween.  There’s only one problem, as Maribel (Patricia Velasquez, 2019's "The Curse of La Llorona"), the vampire he turned 200 years ago points out in a phone call from home – he hasn’t taken Daylight Savings Time into account and won’t get back to his coffin before dawn.  It sounds silly and it is, but it’s also a hoot, from the vampire saving his favorite shirt with a Tide pen to the chapter’s closing punch line.        

Still unimpressed and refusing to release him, Arden and Gibbons then decide to go through The Traveler’s possessions and, ignoring a gnarly dismembered finger, hone in on a vial of blood.  This leads to director Gigi Saul Guerrero’s ‘Nahuales,’ the anthology’s chapter that leans most into Latino folklore yet is its least memorable.  We find Ramon De la Cruz (Ari Gallegos) trying to get away from something, a dead body draped over the horse he urges to speed up, but the old witch he’s crossed gets him nonetheless and he’s tortured in a shamanic ceremony.

“Satanic Hispanics” picks up the slack with a double whammy of an ending.  Alejandro Brugues’ ("Juan of the Dead") ‘The Hammer of Zanzibar’ begins with Malcolm (Jonah Ray Rodrigues, Netflix's 'Mystery Science Theater 3000') meeting his ex, Amy (Danielle Chaves), in their old favorite restaurant, but we’re clued in that something’s very wrong by the vase of dead roses on their table.  Malcolm voices his suspicions – because he videotaped a ritual he shouldn’t have for a documentary she was making, their friends are all dead now, this restaurant is not real and Amy is possessed by a demon – and he’s right, but thankfully he’s come prepared with the right weapon – The Hammer of Zanzibar, and its origin story is a tale of sexual betrayal by something called Popobawa that is an exercise in escalating, lewd hilarity.  And if some of these chapters have seemed a little random, this one circles neatly back to The Traveler and a last stand with San La Muerte in a horror Western showdown Mendez builds with tension and executes with panache.        

Robin's Review: B

A scene of carnage in El Paso gives up a single survivor, a man called “the Traveler” (Efren Ramirez). The police soon learn that he has lived a life of horror. He begins to tell his interrogators about the existence of portals between worlds. The problem is, sometime the door gets left open and things, not very nice things, go through the open door in “Satanic Hispanics.”

Over the years, there have been many compendium collections of horror shorts but, until now, not one from Latin America. That lack has been corrected by a group of filmmakers from across our many southern neighbors. As is the usual, the movie starts with the above scene of carnage and the Traveler tells his stories of journeys between worlds. Oh, and he is immortal.

The Traveler, directed by Mike Mendez, tells his four tales, beginning with “Tambien Lo Vi.” It tells the story of Gustavo (Demien Salomon) a professional Rubik’s cube competitor preparing for a match in Japan. He also believes he can see into the afterlife and opens a window that should have been left closed. This is one serious entry in the collection.

Changing gears, “El Vampiro,” directed by Eduardo Sanchez, takes a light-hearted look at a fat vampire (Hemky Madera) who goes out into the night to feed. The only problem with the plan is he did not account for the time change for Daylight Saving Time. Suddenly, he is on the other side of town and has just 15 minutes to get to home and safety. The journey moves between funny and silly but that is not a bad thing,

Switching back to the serious, “Nahules,” directed by Gigi Saul Gerrero, is a tale of a young man (Ari Gellagos) who finds himself in direct conflict with a powerful witch from the other side. It is more atmospheric than scary but that is okay.

The last installment, “Hammer of Zanzibar” goes back to the comical in a yarn about Malcolm (Jonah Ray) who believes that his ex-girlfriend, Amy (Danielle Chavez), is possessed. But, not just by just any demon – she is taken over by the big kahuna, the King Zombie (Morgana Igris), a venomous monster that cannot be killed. Then, we bring in the titular hammer and things get very silly very fast.

It is hard to draw a full house when dealing with a compendium of short stories by disparate directors and writers. The team putting together “Satanic Hispanics” have their ups and downs but, while I enjoyed the comical more than the serious, the whole package is worthwhile.

Dread releases "Satanic Hispanics" in theaters on 9/14/23.