There’s something particularly Latinx about “spooky season,” maybe because we have a more open —and, I’d argue, healthier— relationship to death and what lies beyond. Our culture just has more to offer when it comes to engaging with and understanding the occult.
So it makes sense to spend our shorter days this month watching films and shows that feature Latinx talent dealing with monsters, murderers, and ghosts.
But don’t worry, I’ve organized my list to suit our various tastes—because, as we say, Latinxs are NOT a monolith! So, whether you’re into blockbuster slashers, social justice commentary, or the horror-humor crossover, I’ve got you covered.
Check out my recommendations below, listed in order from scariest to least.
The Mainstream Slasher: Scream (2022)
I’m starting with the most obvious and traditionally scary movie here: the slasher. The recent Scream 6 delivers, starring not one but TWO Latinas in Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega. It’s got all the blood and guts you could want —I had to look away during some scenes — the humor and horror of the originals, and enough mystery to keep the jumps compelling.
The Arthouse: X (2022)
Jenna Ortega is making a name for herself in the horror space. She had a scene-stealing role in Netflix’s You, there’s the above Scream franchise, and she’s set to star in Netflix’s Wednesday, making the Addams family finally, textually Latinx.
If you want an artsy slasher, you can also find her in A24’s X, which follows a group of young porn filmmakers who find trouble when shooting on location.
The Vampire Story: Let the Right One In (2022)
Showtime’s Let the Right One In is a TV series, but I’m including it here because it’s the perfect Latinx entry into the vampire genre. It’s a remake of the seminal Swedish film, this time set in New York and now starring a Latino dad, the superb Demián Bichir, doing everything he can to protect his tween daughter-turned-vampire, played by Madison Taylor Baez.
It has bloodsucking gore, heartwarming family moments, and plenty of moments that’ll make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.
New episodes air Sunday through November.
The Slow Burn: Clara Sola (2021)
Cannes Film Festival selection Clara Sola isn’t exactly a horror film, but it’s not not a horror film either. It’s a visually stunning, quiet film that transmits an uneasy, unnerving vibe.
With a mixture of abusive Catholicism, stunted female sexuality, and true mystic power, Clara Sola asks what really scares us and why.
The Social Commentary: La Llorona (2019)
If you need your horror to have something to say, let me recommend the guatemalteco feature, La Llorona (don’t watch the 2019 American version—it was trash). This film features the haunting of a Guatemalan war criminal on trial for leading the genocide of his country’s Indigenous communities. As the tension grows, it’s easier to see who is complicit in his many crimes and explore what the consequences should be.
The Political Satire: American Carnage (2022)
For politics with humor and horror mixed in, check out this year’s American Carnage, which leverages classic genre themes and plot elements to build its scathing critique of Trump and the U.S. political system that criminalizes immigrants. It also features some fun commentary on racial dynamics inside Latinx communities, which may just be the laugh we need after the real-life horror stories coming out of the Los Angeles City Council.
The Campy: Vampires vs. the Bronx
Netflix’s Vampires vs. the Bronx is a childhood tale of neighborhood kids banding together to fight off gentrifiers—who just happen to sleep in coffins. It’s mostly heartwarming in tone, celebrating the bodega à la In the Heights—the two even share a cast member in Gregory Diaz IV. But it has enough action to keep you jumping, not to mention plenty of in-jokes for Latinx audiences.
The Family Fright Flick: Hocus Pocus 2 (2022)
The nostalgia for the original Hocus Pocus is strong—strong enough to bring back the famed Sanderson sisters as played by Bette Middler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy for a sequel nearly 30 years later. The new version isn’t as lily white as the old one though, featuring Black and Brown teens —including The Baker and the Beauty’s Belissa Escobedo— who conjure and must vanquish everyone’s favorite white witches.
The Heartwarming: Coco (2017)
It’s time to rewatch Coco. Really, the film is so seminal to Latinx audiences by now, I don’t need to say much more. But in case you need a refresher, Coco is Pixar’s Día de los Muertos film following a young boy who travels into the world of the undead and fixes a family wound on the way back
It’s a film about intergenerational trauma before everyone knew the phrase—it’s also the first U.S. film I remember seeing that depicted the positive side of Latinx collectivism, finally showing how our families can be assets, not just obstacles.
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
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