While most of the United States spent the 90s freaking out over the latest Stephen King flick, many of us Latinos were scared enough listening to our abuelas wax nostalgic about all the horrifying supernatural things that apparently used to happen on a daily basis in Nuestra América. Even to this day, evil witches, vengeful spirits, and menacing demons are just everyday phenomena to be frightened away with a time-tested mix of candles, incense, and herbal concoctions. So if you want to talk about Latino horror, there’s really no need to look further than our own spooky cultural experience, right?
Well kudos to the folks at Argentina’s Studio Freak for doing just that – and nailing it. In an ongoing series of short animated spots for HBO Plus entitled Fantasmagorias, Studio Freak has cooked up a convincing blend of traditional 2-D and computer animation to dramatize some of Latin America’s most hair-raising supernatural legends. The result looks like a short form version of Tales from the Crypt had a love affair with the collected works of Juan Rulfo. Which is to say, awesome.
With a total of four episodes produced thus far, they are now available for our viewing pleasure on the interwebs. First to drop was the pan-Latino classic La Llorona, described here as a Mexico City maid who killed her newborn babies after being slighted by the wealthy man who fathered them. While this may be true, the legend is also known to exist from the Río Grande down to el Río de la Plata, so most of us probably have some relationship with with this shrieking alma en pena.
Then comes the terrifying legend of El Silbón, from the llanos of Venezuela. As the story goes, a philandering son was discovered by his father while getting his freak on in the barn. Papi unloads a shotgun on his hijito’s unsuspecting partner, inspiring the hijito to respond with a pitchfork in the back. The bloodbath continues when the young man’s grandfather gives the kid a few lashings and leaves him to the dogs. But the mangled young llanero miraculously survives and now roams the grassy plains of Venezuela blowing a ghostly whistle as he passes.
Yeah, it’s all pretty morbid stuff, and Fantasmagorias’ creepy atmosphere does due justice to Latin America’s singular supernatural imagination. Check out all four videos above and remember why you stayed up so many late nights telling yourself those terrifying noises were just the house settling.