Efren Ramirez has had a longstanding career in Hollywood. From the fan-favorite character Pedro in Napoleon Dynamite (2004) to an appearance in Ashlee Simpson’s Boyfriend music video, Ramirez’s talents know no bounds as far as genre within pop culture is concerned. Fans of the seasoned actor can catch him in Satanic Hispanics, where he plays ‘The Traveler,’ a long-lived citizen who has experienced his fair share of urban Latin legends. When the local police raid a house in El Paso, they find The Traveler in addition to piles of dead bodies. His conversation with the police reveals a history of magic, horrors, and demons. It doesn’t always maintain a focus, but Satanic Hispanics is full of creativity within its storytelling, even with pacing issues and tonal imbalances.
Satanic Hispanics is an anthology of 5 short films from some of the leading Latin filmmakers in the horror genre. Mike Mendez, Demián Rugna, Eduardo Sánchez, Gigi Saul Guerrero, and Alejandro Brugués share the director’s chair to spotlight Hispanic talent both in front and behind the camera. Though the different styles of every director never interfere with the flow of the story, the feature overall takes a while to find its footing. Ultimately, it makes the 105-minute runtime feel inordinate even though it falls within the average movie. Mostly, the loose connectivity between the various chapters and the main plot also tends to build in some unnecessary confusion.
That’s not to say that this anthology collaboration is terrible because it’s far from it. In essence, there’s a beauty deep within the feature that celebrates Latin culture by intertwining urban stories into one. It’s just not executed as well as it could have been. One of the biggest issues within this movie is the pacing. At times, the abrupt changes from each story build in unbridgeable disparities, where it begins to feel as if the filmmakers wanted to stuff in as much as possible. These moments happen so frequently that it’s difficult to maintain focus on the main storyline and why, quite frankly, we as viewers should care about it.
“…he plays ‘The Traveler,’ a long-lived citizen who has experienced his fair share of urban Latin legends.”
Alongside the pacing issues are imbalances when it comes to the tone of the film. The opening sequence solidified its commitment to the horror genre, while other chapters and scenes bring in a more comedic angle. In addition to that, the script leans into silly territory even when meaningful moments occur, which makes it difficult as a viewer to buy into the story they’re trying to tell. It’s one thing to genre bend and blend to implement imagination and novelty within the storytelling. But it’s another thing entirely to vacillate between the two out of an inability to commit to a choice. The latter case applies here, which tends to make Satanic Hispanics feel like a parody of the culture it’s trying to celebrate.
This collaborative feature isn’t all disappointment, however. The cast truly seemed to have had a good time creating this project. Ramirez’s commitment, in particular, to the wonky dialogue and zaniness is fun to watch even when the script doesn’t do his performance justice. And even though the film tends to forget about its own details within each chapter, the somewhat parodical nature of its genre-blending and attachment to Latin American culture fires up the entertainment exactly when it needs to—just as viewers may be ready to bow out.
Ultimately, Satanic Hispanics won’t be for everyone, but there’s no denying the joy one might experience within each story, especially as they venture into the farfetched due to its campy commitments. There are tonal imbalances, pacing issues, and even a bit too much going on, but the creativity with which the movie is shot goes a long way, especially with great horror moments, practical effects, and a committed cast that keeps their feet on the gas when it comes to providing entertainment.
"…His conversation with the police reveals a history of magic, horrors, and demons."