[Fantastic Fest 2022 Review] ‘Satanic Hispanics’ – a refreshing and much needed win for modern horror anthologies

The word “anthology” has become synonymous with “lazy.” For sure, newer horror anthologies are indeed being made with less care, creativity and time, especially when compared to the format’s glory days. However, a movie like Satanic Hispanics is proof that segmented storytelling isn’t so much a lost art as it is a rarity.

So often the strength of an anthology lies in its theme. And Satanic Hispanics is vocal about its motif and objective. The cohesiveness of the stories, along with their adherence to the overall concept, already puts this collection on the right path. There’s also no frankensteining going on here; everything is fresh and original in this movie, as opposed to someone piecing together old material for a quick buck. The filmmakers — Alejandro Brugués, Mike Mendez, Eduardo Sánchez, Gigi Saul Guerrero, Demián Rugna — are all on the same wavelength, creatively and visually, so there’s a seamlessness to the whole picture that you don’t always get these days.

Mike Mendez (The Convent) opens the movie with “The Traveler“, an intriguing wraparound that keeps all the smaller segments in good order. The engaging manner in which Efren Ramirez, playing the unnamed and enigmatic namesake, delivers each spook tale to the unaware police officers questioning him (Sonya Eddy, Greg Grunberg) is a big change from the overtly menacing narrators so often found lurking and misrepresenting themselves in other anthologies. He’s mysterious, sure, but The Traveler is on our side.

After being discovered as the lone survivor of a house massacre, The Traveler is brought in by the cops. He practically begs them to let him go before it’s too late, but as to be expected, they keep him confined to an interrogation room until this whole case starts to makes any sense. In the meantime, The Traveler recounts his history as well as past police cases that can only be explained by the supernatural.

Demián Rugna (Terrified) chills the blood with the movie’s first and most straightforwardly creepy story, “Tambien Lo Vi” (I Saw It). The flashlight gimmick, some peekaboo scares and a goopy ghost will surely rattle the nerves and raise the hair on arms everywhere. Eduardo Sánchez (The Blair Witch Project) shows his experience with anthologies in “El Vampiro” (The Vampire), a more lighthearted (but sanguinary) segment where the success hinges on situational humor and a sense of urgency.

Gigi Saul Guerrero (Bingo Hell) serves up mysticism and violence in “Nahuales“, which is without question the most brutal piece of this whole ensemble. The end can’t come soon enough as you grip your seat, anticipating the worst outcome. The Traveler’s stories finally comes to an end with the rousing chapter “The Hammer of El Zanzibar“, a rousing comedy with a clear affection for The Evil Dead. It’s hard not to smile from ear to ear as this one plays out in the most hilarious way possible. Alejandro Brugués‘ (Juan of the Dead) contribution is a perfect note to go out on before circling back to the framing device.

The times someone gets the ins and outs of an anthology right are few and far between nowadays, but when they do happen, they’re worth celebrating. Satanic Hispanics is encouraging to those who have given up on portmanteau frights as a legit category in today’s horror setting. Fans will watch regardless, whereas general audiences are apprehensive. Rest assured, this assemblage of culturally unique terror tales is a stunner waiting to become an anthology staple.

Satanic Hispanics premiered at Fantastic Fest 2022.

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