Have you cycled through all the horror films in your personal collection? Sure, you could fire up The Nightmare on Elm Street again, give the Scream franchise another try, or even finally get around to re-watching Fede Alvarez‘s Don’t Breathe. But maybe you’re hankering for some non-Anglo scares? After all, there’s plenty of horror fare coming from Spain and Latin America that deserves your attention. And given the current wealth of streaming services, you can find many of them right online for your viewing pleasure. Or, okay, maybe not “pleasure” considering these flicks are bound to make you jump on your seat and force you sleep with the lights on.
Here at Remezcla, we decided to help you curate your very own Spanish-language Horror Fest. We scoured the web to find you streamable choices that go beyond the usual suspects. From creepy ghost stories in haunted mansions to gory incestuous thrills, as well as classic flicks like Drácula and Guillermo del Toro‘s El espinazo del diablo – consider these lucky 13 movies the perfect way to spend your nights this Octubre.
In 1930, while Tod Browning was directing Bela Lugosi in Hollywood’s first horror talkie film, another cast and crew would take over the sets at night to shoot their own version of the same movie in Spanish. The cast and crew hailed from Spain, Mexico, and other Latin American countries. Mexican director Enrique Tovar Ávalos was uncredited in favor of his American co-director George Melford, who couldn’t speak Spanish. Since it was filmed at night after Tod Browning wrapped for the day, the Spanish version’s crew had access to dailies, which they were able to improve upon. The Spanish-language Drácula starring Lupita Tovar is considered vastly superior to the original by film critics.
Guillermo del Toro’s now classic gothic horror film is the kind of ghost story that can scare the pants off anyone who watches it. Set during Spain’s Civil War and brimming with the kind of historical commentary that so characterizes the best of the Mexican director’s projects, The Devil’s Backbone is set at an all boys orphanage that bears the distinction of featuring a defused bomb in the middle of their courtyard. When Carlos, whose dad died fighting the fascists, arrives and strikes up an unlikely friendship with the ghost of a boy who went missing the day the bomb appeared, the place’s mysteries and secrets begin to spill in ever more disturbing ways.
Rule number one of filmmaking: certain words in the title will automatically make your film sound cool, such as ‘hustle’, ‘pulp’ or anything with an X in it. When applied to normal (i.e. non-horror) films, ‘devil’ falls under this category, with Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead or Ride with the Devil both pricking the hipster consciousness before failing to live up to their epic titles. But stick ‘devil’ in a horror film and it just sounds clichéd. Like Los Sin Nombre, disappearing/reappearing children are at the heart of the Madrileño, Adrián García Bogliano’s film, as a hitherto happy couple idiotically lose their kids near some mountainside caves. The brats soon turn up but are exhibiting some pretty disturbing changes. Are they possessed by Satan? Or have they just had too many Skittles. Either way, it seems like some lessons in responsible parenting wouldn’t go amiss.
Two young girls are drawn into a dark fantasy world of witchcraft and evil spirits—but what begins as make believe soon turns sinister. Winner of the Golden Ariel (the Mexican Oscar) for Best Picture and a favorite of Guillermo del Toro for its creepily poetic, child’s-eye imagery (with adults kept conspicuously out of frame), this slow-burn study in psychological suspense explores the most disturbing realms of childhood imagination.
A group of young men on a hiking trip are shockingly and brutally besieged by the residents of a rural village when a local priest accuses them of being communist subversives. This true-life tale of terror is a landmark of Mexican political cinema, standing as a tragically relevant exposé of how xenophobia and ignorance can be marshaled into unthinkable violence.
Undead witches, severed hands, plastic surgery horrors… Something like a Mexican Eyes Without a Face, this surrealist chiller is a wild spiral into no-holds-barred delirium. The story—about a witch who is murdered by her husband and returns to take gruesome revenge upon his new wife—unfolds in a torrent of searing, floridly expressionistic images.
A horror film from the Spanish born Adrián García Bogliano, Cold Sweat follows Román (Espinosa), who stumbles upon his ex-girlfriend Jackie (Velasco), who has somehow gotten caught up in a torture cult run by two sadistic, old men. The aging political radicals have managed to put Jackie’s life in incredible danger by threatening her with explosive nitroglycerin. When Román and his friend Ali (Glezer) try to help Jackie out of her confines, the elderly psychos prove to be more than meets the eye. Imagine Saw with an AARP member as the killer.
When an aging antiques dealer (Luppi) comes into possession of an ancient scarab, the device imparts to him the seemingly enviable gift of everlasting life—but also awakens a newfound thirst for blood. Heavily indebted to the traditions of Mexican horror cinema, Guillermo del Toro’s darkly stylish feature debut uses the vampire myth as a springboard to explore complex ideas of human weakness, religion, and immortality.
Diana (Daniela Ramirez), a pregnant woman with an absent husband, is feeling overwhelmed taking care of her first-born child, Martin (Matias Bassi), who has developmental disabilities. Nearing her breaking point, she hires a Filipino nanny, Luz (Aida Jabolin), who, at first, turns out to be a blessing for the family, especially since Martin’s behavioral problems seem to improve while he is under Luz’s care. However, Diana begins to wonder if her new employee is using her status inside the family to turn Martin against her. Motherhood is at stake when another matriarch comes into the house and disturbs the domestic hierarchy.
Shot in the vein of The Blair of Witch Project, this found footage Mexican film follows a group of paranormal investigators as they break into a recently closed and abandoned insane asylum that they believe is rife with supernatural activity. In between the whispers of exorcisms and the kind of frights only a night light shot of a creepy hallway, Abe Rosenberg’s film proves that yes, there’s only one possible outcome for this kind of story.
Set in an apocalyptic alternate universe, We Are the Flesh follows a brother-sister duo who happen upon the filthy lair of a diabolical hermit, and quickly fall under his utterly demented spell. With action confined to the hermit’s squalid residence, explicit scenes of incest and body gore ensue, with shots of soppy, ground-up human flesh complimented by more unconscionable taboos like drinking your sibling’s menstrual blood.
Touted as the first horror film produced in Venezuela, Alejandro Hidalgo’s creepy ghost-like story follows Dulce, a mother of two who keeps experiencing disturbing and seemingly supernatural encounters in her (obviously old and creaky) house. Thirty years later—after being imprisoned for the murder of her husband—she returns to her home to decipher the mystery of what really happened there all those years ago that drove her to such violent ends.