Mike Mendez, whose credits include The Convent, The Gravedancers, Big Ass Spider! and a segment of Tales of Halloween, is more than one of the directors who contributed to the new omnibus feature Satanic Hispanics; he helped put it all together as one of the producers. Alongside Juan of the Dead’s Alejandro Brugués (who also helmed a segment), Patrick Ewald and Katie Page, he assembled a team of Latino filmmakers also including Gigi Saul Guerrero (Culture Shock), Demián Rugna (Terrified) and Eduardo Sánchez (The Blair Witch Project). Having nabbed the Best Director award at last year’s Fantastic Fest, Satanic Hispanics hits theaters nationwide from Epic’s Dread label and Iconic Events this Thursday, September 14.
Mendez created the film’s framing story, which begins with the discovery of a mass murder of Latinos in an old building. The only survivor, who calls himself “The Traveler” (Efren Ramirez), is taken to a nearby police station, where he regales a pair of detectives, played by Sonya Eddy and Spider’s Greg Grunberg, about the terrible events he’s witnessed. After we have seen four of those stories dramatized, the movie’s finale plays out at the station as a memorable demon called San La Muerte enters the picture. (You can read more about Satanic Hispanics in FANGORIA #20, now on sale.)
What were the origins/inspirations behind Satanic Hispanics?
After making Tales of Halloween with Epic Pictures, I wanted to do another anthology. But anthologies are their own sort of art form, and I’m a big believer there has to be a reason, a cause, or a fresh angle to justify a new one. We already have lots of great anthologies: Creepshow, the V/H/S franchise, The Mortuary Collection, Trick ’R Treat, to name just a few. So I was trying to find a new way in, and one day, Alejandro Brugués blurted out, “Hey, when are we going to make Satanic Hispanics, the all-Latino horror anthology?” He was kidding, but it made all the sense in the world. The “Satanic Hispanics” was what we called ourselves when I was helping my friend and creature creator Norman Cabrera on some thrash-metal music videos, and that moniker kind of stuck for any of my horror-loving friends who are Latino.
How were the filmmakers chosen?
Alejandro and I put our heads together about what this could be, asked ourselves who our favorite Latino indie filmmakers were, and quickly came up with a short list. We saw how diverse we are and how we are descended from all over Latin America. I’m from Los Angeles, Alejandro and Ed Sánchez are from Cuba, Gigi Saul Guerrero is from Mexico, and Demián Rugna is from Argentina. It felt like it would be cool if we could tell stories about our own cultures and explore our heritage by recounting myths and legends from all over Latin America.
Ed seemed like a natural choice. We’re all fans of The Blair Witch Project, of course, and he has done all sorts of cool films such as Lovely Molly, Altered, and Exists, as well as a ton of great TV. So we were very excited to have him come on board.
Gigi, I felt, was vital to the film. She has been kicking ass with her movies Culture Shock and Bingo Hell for Blumhouse, and I absolutely loved her short El Gigante. She had the right energy and attitude for this project, plus she’s an awesome person who I knew would fit right in. So I was very happy when she took a leap of faith with us.
Finally, Demián came to mind simply because Alejandro and I both loved Terrified. So we reached out to him in Argentina, and thankfully, he was down for the cause. The Satanic Hispanics had been assembled: five different filmmakers with different styles who each had a different point of view on what it means to be Latino.
How was the order of the segments determined?
We had an order written of how we thought it would go. But when we saw the first cut, it stacked two of the more serious, Spanish-language shorts together, and then the first half of the movie felt dark, and the second half felt goofy. It didn’t quite work, so we felt we had to divide it up a bit more, and that’s how we came to the order in the film now.
Your own segment is, unless I’m missing something, your first time directly tackling sociopolitical concerns. Is this a subject matter you’ve wanted to address for a while?
Well, I’m not really interested in telling sociopolitical stories, though I wouldn’t mind telling more Latino stories. My whole point with all of this is that we need diversity in all forms, especially in our storytelling.
How was it reuniting with Greg Grunberg?
I love working with Greg, and I certainly hope this is not the last time. He’s a great and creative collaborator and brings such a good energy on set. I just love having him around.
Tell us about the conception and creation of the excellent makeup effects in your final segment.
I got to work with Norman Cabrera, who as I mentioned, is one of the original Satanic Hispanics and is one of my favorite collaborators. Norman is among the greats in the makeup industry and has sculpted a lot of memorable creatures for movies like Hellboy, From Dusk Till Dawn, Malignant, and Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark. I first worked with him on The Gravedancers, where he designed and sculpted the ghosts. I love working with him, and I’m truly in awe of his work. For me, he created the final creature, San La Muerte, played by Mark Steger. I won’t say too much more about it other than I’m blown away by the design. Norman really outdid himself on this one.
What do you feel Satanic Hispanics contributes to both the horror genre and Latino cinema?
For one thing, it’s the first of its kind: the first Latin American horror anthology ever. Latinos are a huge part of the audience for genre films, and it is very rare that movies are made with them in mind. Satanic Hispanics is for everybody, but we felt Latino representation was extremely important and underutilized in most modern media. It offers an exploration of myths and legends that I feel are largely unexplored, certainly for American audiences. As a Latino myself, I don’t even know a lot of the myths of Central and South America, but I’ve enjoyed learning about them, and I think audiences will, too.
Are there advantages and freedoms to doing an anthology film that you don’t get in a full-length feature?
I think so. It’s a different art form, especially as a producer, because you get to assemble a team and a theme and guide a large group while being one of the directors yourself. It’s fun because you’re still trying to make the most cohesive and entertaining film you can, but you’re doing it with a team of other filmmakers you like and admire. And if you get along with them, that’s great. I will say that’s one of the most fun things about anthologies: If you make them with your friends and people you enjoy working with, it’s such an easier and smoother process. I genuinely love this entire team and feel honored I got to work with them.
You can also pull more favors for a short because it’s a smaller ask. You’re only shooting for three or four days, so it’s a little easier to get more people to do you favors on a low budget. And you have a group of filmmakers asking these favors, so the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. That’s exactly what you want in an anthology.
Do you have any plans for a Satanic Hispanics follow-up movie?
I hope so, but as always, it’s up to audiences, and it’s up to the box office. I would do another one in a second.
Dread's Satanic Hispanics is in theaters September 14. Get your tickets right here.