Netflix Queue: Latin American Films to Get in the Spooky Spirit

Hispanic Heritage Month in the U.S. may have ended Oct. 15, but appreciating Latinx art doesn’t have to fall within a specific time frame you can enjoy these films all year long. The American idea of “horror” differs in many ways from that in Latin American countries, which often consist of distinct camera styling and plotlines. From Mexican urban legends to an abandoned orphanage, here are our favorite Latin American horror films.  

México Bárbaro (Barbarous Mexico)

Written and directed by Laurette Flores, Edgar Nito, Aaron Soto, Isaac Ezban, Lex Ortega, Jorge Michel Grau, Ulises Gúzman and GiGi Saul Guerrero

This anthology film consists of eight short films, each directed by a different Mexican director, which are sure to disturb and engage any viewer. Compiled into one movie in which urban legends from Mexico come to life, this anthology film includes practically every genre of horror. From a human butcher to strippers on la Día de los Muertos, each one of these “cortometrajes,”or short films, is incredibly fascinating. It begins with a short directed by Laurette Flores called “Tzompantli,” an intense depiction of ancient Aztec drug cartels and their sacrificial victims. Following shortly after is “La Cosa Más Preciosa,” or “That Precious Thing,” by Isaac Ezban. “La Cosa Más Preciosa” is a story about a teenage couple in a cabin in the woods which turns into one of the most graphic scenes in this picture it is not for the weak-stomached. There are many moments throughout this film that could make someone cry or even vomit, yet this unique film is sure to grab any viewer’s attention. Anyone needing an unprecedented type of fear and disgust should try “México Bárbaro.”

El Orfanato (The Orphanage)

Written by Sergio G. Sánchez, directed by J.A. Bayona

Returning to her abandoned childhood orphanage in Spain, Laura (Belén Rueda) and her husband, Carlos (Fernando Cayo), have big plans for revitalizing the once-populated house.  Along with their seven-year-old son, Simón (Roger Príncep), the couple is looking forward to opening the orphanage once again, but their seemingly perfect plan goes awry. After young Simón claims he befriended a boy who wears a sack over his face, he mysteriously disappears.  As Laura searches for her son, his strange departure reveals buried secrets and a disturbing history of the place she once called home.

As a concerned mother who seemingly slips into a state of madness, Rueda gives an exceptional performance in this unnerving Spanish film. If you are prepared to watch a movie with an abundance of gore and violence, look for another, as “El Orfanato” relies on atmospheric and psychological terrors rather than jump scares and blood.  While confusing at parts, concentrating on and watching this story until the end is where the horror truly lies. Any initial ideas about thrillers will be debunked, as this foreign film weaves an intricate web of haunting history and a poignant present.

La Habitación de Fermat (Fermat’s Room)

Written and directed by Luis Piedrahita and Rodrigo Sopeña

Three of Spain’s best mathematicians and one great inventor come together in hopes of solving a puzzle created by the mysterious “Fermat” (Federico Luppi). After receiving pseudonyms of famous mathematicians, they solve a series of riddles, and then they are locked in a room with only each other and a PDA.  After discovering that the room shrinks every time a question is answered incorrectly, the characters begin to fear for their lives. After Olivia (Elena Ballesteros) and Galois (Alejo Sauras) disclose their romantic past, the situation becomes personal and increasingly alarming. Escape is essential but seemingly impossible.

One of the few suspense pictures shot primarily in just one room, the setting of this movie is only amplified by the close proximity of these characters. Americans love suspense films, as seen from the popularity of director Alfred Hitchcock, so the unique, intriguing “La Habitación de Fermat” is sure to impress. This movie manages to be spine-chilling and petrifying without any jump scares or gory elements.