SATANIC HISPANICS is the new all-Latino anthology horror movie that is opening in theaters on September 14. In this interview, Nightmarish Conjurings’ Dolores Quintana spoke with three of the directors of the film’s segments, Alejandro Brugués (Cuba), Gigi Saul Guerrero (Mexico), and Mike Mendez (United States), yes, Latinos are Americans too, about creating the world’s first all-Latino horror anthology film.
Each deliciously terrifying segment reflects the background of each director and proves that Latino people are not a monolith, even though we share our overall culture. Some are funny frights, some are cerebral trips into the unknown, and one is based on the folklore of Catamacos. All are uniquely entertaining and terrifying dances with the demons in the mind and from the outer plains of existence. Sit back, relax, and dive into what went on in the creation of SATANIC HISPANICS.
Tell me a little bit about how the idea of SATANIC HISPANICS came into being.
Mike Mendez: I had done an anthology in the past with Epic Pictures called Tales of Halloween, and I had a great experience, largely because I just enjoyed working with other filmmakers. So, they had said that they’d be open to doing another anthology. There are so many good ones, The V/H/S series or The Mortuary Collection, and there’s Nightmare Cinema. There’s just a lot of great, great anthology films. So we needed a point of view that was interesting. Then Alejandro jokingly said one day, “Hey, when are we going to make Satanic Hispanics? The all-Latino horror anthology?” He doesn’t think that he did, but I swear to God, he did. I didn’t think he was joking. It made perfect sense. It just sort of clicked right there. I was just like, yes, let’s do that. We immediately pitched it to Epic, and they greenlit it, which was great.
Alejandro Brugués: Sorry.
He is like, I did not say that.
Mike Mendez: It was all [my] idea.
How did you go about finding the other three directors for SATANIC HISPANICS?
Mike Mendez: I’ll just start it off, and then Alejandro can take it over. I had worked with Alejandro in the past. I edited his segment, “The Thing In The Woods,” for Nightmare Cinema, and we just clicked. I liked Alejandro, and we have a similar sensibility. So off of that experience, he seemed a good creative partner to work with. For me, I’ll just say this, on a personal level, it’s just more fun to work with somebody. It’s weird. Filmmaking can be a very lonely experience, so it’s just nice to have a partner to experience these things with and talk about them, and it was great. That’s the first part, so then I’ll pass it over to Alejandro.
Alejandro Brugués: Yeah, we started talking immediately, and well, if we’re gonna do this, we need a nice group of filmmakers and friends. Because I mean, that’s the point, if you’re doing this kind of thing, do it with friends. Filmmaking is too hard. So you might as well have fun. And so we started going over names. But immediately, Eduardo and Gigi jumped out to us. I was still talking to Mike, and I was already texting Eduardo. I was telling him, hey, we’re gonna make a movie called SATANIC HISPANICS, and you’re in it.
Gigi Saul Guerrero: No questions.
Alejandro Brugués: Eduardo [Sánchez] was probably just lying out in the garden, he looked at the text, and he was like, okay. You know, it was just like that.
Mike Mendez: Friendship is one thing, but we also wanted filmmakers that we genuinely respected and genuinely were fans of. So Gigi, of course, came to mind because I love her work, and she’s an awesome person. So we were like, okay, who’s the kick-ass Latina that would kind of just fit in this and make something in the similar vein as what we do? Gigi was just the natural choice.
Gigi Saul Guerrero: Yeah, thank you.
Alejandro Brugués: Then the other thing is that we also wanted to represent all corners of Latin America. I’m an immigrant. I came here 10 years ago. Ed came when he was, I think, six years old. Gigi, you were a teenager, right? Mike was born here. But we still wanted someone from Latin America. We started going over the list of people in Latin America that we like and admire. Of course, Terrified is such a monumental Latin American horror, a landmark. I think the sort of challenge was to get Demián [Rugna] because none of us was friends with him. I managed to get his phone number, and I called him. Then I bullied him to be in the movie.
Alejandro Brugués: He was very excited, but at the same time, he said I have a ton of work. I’m not sure if I can, and I’m like, Oh, I’m sure. I’m not asking you. You are going to be in it. Even knowing that he was in it, there were moments where he was like, Hey, I’m shooting my movie, or know if I can make it. I would be calling him from my car and say, yes, you can make it. He would say that I need to finish shooting my movie, and I want to take a month off to rest before I get into this. I said, why are you gonna take a month off? Shoot back to back. So I really bullied him to do it, and he shot back to back.
Mike Mendez: He informed us recently that up until about a week or two before shooting, he didn’t know what he was going to shoot.
Alejandro Brugués: We had an outline, some sort of like concept, and knowing [the film] Terrified, we sort of knew what to expect. The thing about doing a film like this is that one of the things that you want is to give everyone freedom, so we were fine. We weren’t concerned.
Gigi, where did the idea for your segment “Nahuales” come from?
Gigi Saul Guerrero: For those who have seen my work, I like to infuse as much as possible my Mexican background into just about everything I do. If I can’t, then I will at least have a character or a line of dialogue or something that feels close to home. But I’ve always been interested in the mythology of Nahuales. I’ve always wanted to do it. But it’s so complicated, and for us Mexicans, as most Latinos are, in general, we’re very spiritual, very superstitious, and the culture of Nahuales is actually looked at in a very negative light. The fact that you have an inner spirit animal, though sounds beautiful.
For us Mexicans from our Catholic background, we think, Oh, it’s only used for violence, oh they mix it with black magic or Brujeria. It’s looked at not in the best light. Why I wanted to tell this story was thanks to this project. It was finally that opportunity to go to Mexico and film. I hadn’t done that. I’ve been making Canada look like Mexico for too many years. I’m running out of actors and spaces to film. This was the chance to go where all the shamans were in Mexico, and Catamaco was the birthplace of witchcraft. It’s where the jungle of Nanciyaga is where the shamans consider themselves now while is there, so I was like, if we’re gonna do this, we’ve got to do it right.
And this was my producer’s idea Raynor [Shima], who’s not Mexican, but that’s what makes him so brave. He’s like, we’re going to get the mic. I’m like, Oh, God. But it was the opportunity that we just had; I had to take it and be as authentic as possible, from the rituals to the language to the way they look, the costumes, everything is very well researched on our side.
Nice. As I remember, Mike, you do The Traveler segment, which is kind of the frame story of the anthology. Alejandro does the Hammer of Zanzibar. Mike, with the segment The Traveler, I noticed, as with the rest of your work, it’s a mix in the story that’s funny and scary at the same time.
Mike Mendez: That’s just, for better or worse, my kind of knee-jerk way of making stuff, and there was an attempt to be more serious this time because I have done lots of horror comedy. So I thought I wanted to do something that’s a little more on the dramatic side and a little more like 80% serious with maybe 20% humor as opposed to the usual 50/50. That was challenge number one. I had that little bit of a burden to make the wraparound serve the purpose of getting the stories from point A to point B.
I had this character in my head that I just didn’t know what to do with it. It was a character that, without giving too much away, always had to be moving and always had to be traveling because death was always a few steps behind him. I never knew what to do with that character. It always seemed like a character that should be part of something else, like someone you go seek advice from or someone you find because he’s always traveling the Earth, but he knows everything because he’s always been around. An anthology was a great way to say, hey, this is a good place for this character if we can do something with him. I never thought he’d be the lead of his own story. It was cool to be able to dust the character off and think about how can we do this.
Then from there, we did a kind of usual suspects style; we created this interrogation scenario where the stories come through. I am happy with it, largely because of the performances and some of the creature work in there. But the most important thing to me is I just wanted to do a wrap-around that took us in at the beginning and was with us throughout the whole movie and ends with us so that the audience had it feels like they’re been on a journey throughout the whole film.
I think it works well. You did a great job, and Efren Ramírez gave a great performance. He sets the tone. One thing that struck me about SATANIC HISPANICS is that, and maybe it’s just me, but a thematic thread that goes throughout the SATANIC HISPANICS. It’s a pride in who we are as Latinos, no matter where we come from. The Traveler is not taking it from the police. He knows.
Mike Mendez: So, without saying too much. It’s like he is more of a citizen than they are. He was born here originally, and he’s still around.
That’s one of the things that I noticed was part of each segment, to various degrees. I liked that. In particular, I think Efren Ramírez did a great job of personifying that attitude. For some reason, I think people have the belief that because we are nice, that Latinos are nice people, we’re somehow submissive or something.
Gigi Saul Guerrero: We trust a lot, and we like to share our fears out loud as well. That’s something we’re not afraid to do is to fully share and express everything we feel, and also, we’re very trustworthy too.
I think that people get some strange ideas because of our openness and our willingness to embrace other people from other cultures rather than being nationalistic or xenophobic.
Mike Mendez: Also, to share the different cultures. To show that being Mexican is different than being Cuban, Venezuelan, Argentinian, or El Salvadorian. Yes, we are all Latino, but we all have our different myths, cultures, legends, foods, and traditions individually, and we explore that.
I think that another great thing about the movie, thematically, is that you did get people who have different backgrounds and different things to say because a lot of people also assume that if you say you’re Latino, that means that someone’s Mexican.
Alejandro Brugués: We are not a monolithic block. We wanted to show that as much as we could, and that’s why we went down to Argentina with one of the stories and showed as much of the diversity as we could. I think also the stories reflect a lot about who we are as Latinos. You have Argentinians who are very cerebral, so that’s why Demián told that particular story. Eduardo and I are from Cuba, and we tend to make fun of everything. Because that’s how we deal with our problems, and that is reflected in our segments. Mexico, obviously, has a long history of violence. That’s why Gigi’s is the most violent and gory one, and in Mike’s segment, I think that The Traveler has a lot of Mike in him.
The perspective of someone who has been in America for a while but is Latino.
Mike Mendez: That I belong here. I’m American. I am Latino. It is all it is all one for me.
Alejandro Brugués: Oh, you’re coming with us when we get kicked out. [Everyone laughs]
I would like to ask you about your segment, Alejandro. It’s true, I have said that every time I think about or say the title, I laugh because it is very funny. But it also does have serious parts to it. Would you like to tell me a little bit about what’s behind the story?
Alejandro Brugués: Well, it’s funny. The whole story of The Hammer of Zanzibar is an idea that I wanted to make into a feature. Everything that happens there that the protagonist, played by Jonah Ray, narrates, and I wanted that to be part of the feature. The feature was also going to be told in different chapters. I knew one of the chapters was going to be The Hammer of Zanzibar. So I turned that into the whole segment here.
It’s funny because all the folklore in that segment is based on reality. All of the references that he makes about the Afro-Cuban religions are pretty accurate. All of the deities that he mentions, and the way that ceremony works, are also very realistic, to the extent that it can be in something like this. But here’s the thing, the Popobawa, the demon referenced in the segment, exists, so you can look it up. It has a Wikipedia page, and he’s from Zanzibar. I read about that years and years ago, and I thought that’s such a stupid demon. Why hasn’t anyone done something with that? It’s like, I cannot have a demon like that lying around without making something.
I don’t know; the title just came one day to me, like The Hammer of Zanzibar, because it’s so stupid. I thought it was not really a hammer. I tried the Spear of Zanzibar, but it doesn’t have the same ring to it. I just wanted to do something where I could be me again, where I could just be me. I love horror comedy, obviously. I just wanted to be that stupid [version of] me.
SATANIC HISPANICS is now playing in theaters. To learn more, check out our review here.