It’s not unusual for a low-budget horror flick to exploit our universal fear of the other in the pursuit of some cheap and ethically questionable shocks. Take the whole “torture-porn” genre, which revels in the irrational fears of American tourists traipsing naively around developing countries, apparently unaware of the savagery that lurks in every brown, foreign body. But what happens when you flip the script? What does it look like when it’s the other who should be afraid of us?
That seems to be the basic driving conceit behind first-time director Max Pachman’s horror feature Gringos. Taking the inherent fears that accompany letting strangers into our home — in this case undocumented Mexican day laborers — Pachman apparently asked himself what that must look like from the other side: how frightening is it for workers to enter the home of some unknown contractor? From there, of course, the horror possibilities are endless.
Starring a handful of established and up-and-coming Latino actors, Gringos follows a group of day laborers into the home of an almost stereotypical lily-white, upper middle class couple who seem to be harboring dark secrets. From there, judging from the trailer, we are treated to a parade of blood, torture, and numerous forms of assault and battery, all pushed along by a creepy little girl singing “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” apparently to drive home the film’s topical, pro-immigration themes. The cast includes: Rigo Sanchez, Nicholas Gonzalez, Edy Ganem, Roberto Sanchez, Josue Aguirre, and Thomas Chavira.
On the film’s Kickstarter page, producers Luis Guerrero and Chris Lemos talk about the difficulties of being Latino outsiders in a white boys club industry, and their express mission of bringing more diversity to U.S. filmmaking. They then go on to situate Gringos within a whole tradition of topical horror, including films like Godzilla and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Whether Gringos will come anything near the iconic status of those horror classics is yet to be seen, but Guerrero, Lemos, and Pachman can certainly be commended for using the genre to make a potent political statement about who is at the center of our cultural narratives. If you agree, check out the campaign and chip in a couple of bucks.