“If you like Los Espookys, I like you,” Cassandra Ciangherotti, one of the stars of the HBO comedy, told Latino Rebels during a recent interview. That may seem like something relatively bland for an actor to say, but it actually says quite a lot about the particular nature of Los Espookys, now in its second season. And let’s be clear, the show is peculiar.
To start, it’s mostly in Spanish and targeted at a global audience. If you’re looking for it on HBO Max, you don’t have to go into the “International” or “Latino” sections—just “Comedy” will do.
But more than that, its sensibility is just different than almost anything else on TV. The plot loosely follows a group of friends who form a troupe (Los Espookys) for hire. Their services? Stagging frights either to their clients or on their client’s behalf.
Now Los Espookys isn’t really scary. It’s more like seeing the oddball people behind the makeup and smoke signals that make up our ideas around horror. But it’s also not a “Making of The Blair Witch Project” or another horror film.
It’s more Waiting for Guffman, a dive into the absurd, a window not into the lives but rather the imaginations of creators Julio Torres, Ana Fabrega, and Fred Armisen—which is all to say that it’s not a show for everyone. It takes a particular type of person and a particular sense of humor to appreciate Los Espookys.
In the second season, we see a “Water Shadow” demon that had been haunting the mind of one of the characters leave the abstract realm and get a job at the U.S. Consulate. The Moon (as portrayed by Yalitza Aparicio) is also mad to get snubbed by a comet at a cocktail party.
These flights of fantasy add to an unapologetically queer show. “There’s a whole spectrum of sexuality in the show,” Ciangherotti said. “You have gender, you have no gender. And it’s a little bit like the opposite side of the coin.”
She explains how the show pokes fun at heterosexual norms, showing how silly it is for, say, sexualized silhouettes of women to work in marketing. “The joke’s on you [the straight audience]. The joke has been on the other side for too long. And I like that. It’s not aggressive,” she said.
“I like this feeling of not underlining the diversity that is happening already in the show,” said Bernardo Velasco, who also stars in the show. “I like the feeling that it is just this world with these rules, where these situations are so crazy… The gender thing, inside this world, every character in every situation can share the same space.” It’s a binary-breaking approach to gender and sexuality that lets its characters exist in and out of our current social norms.
There are certainly plenty of-this-world jokes, including a recent episode revolving around a professor trying to fend off student anger after he declares in class that “queer people have worn a single, dangly earring as a signifier of their sexuality since the dawn of time”—and two of the characters, including Velasco’s Renaldo, touch their jewelry.
But nothing is so cut and dry, particularly not in Los Espookys. At one point, Renaldo’s making a to-do list, and a few points below “Dry off the dog” he has “Understand my sexuality” (he then googles different types of porn). “It’s a very, very noisy thing around sexuality,” Velasco said. “When I see Ronaldo approaching this aspect of his life, he’s just there to ask this question. He may not get the answer, but he’s not suffering for not getting the answer or for not getting that door open yet.”
Instead, sexuality and gender are just some of the raw materials Los Espookys uses to find its laughs, frights, and insights. Very spookily indeed.
New episodes of the second season of Los Espookys air Fridays on HBO.
A writer and activist, Cristina Escobar is the co-founder of latinamedia.co, uplifting Latina and gender non-conforming Latinx perspectives in media. She’s a member of the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association and writes at the intersection of race, gender, and pop culture. Twitter: @cescobarandrade