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South of Heaven: 10 Latin American films you probably haven’t seen (and should)!

Thursday, July 16, 2020 | Culture


My name’s Nic Loreti and I’m a writer and filmmaker from Argentina. My work as a director includes the award-winning cult black comedy Diablo and also Kryptonita, a superhero box office hit over here. I started from the bottom up, working as a production assistant, first assistant director and also producing documentaries. As a result, I learned a lot about the filmmaking craft. I also wrote a few of straight to video horror movies shot in English for the US straight to video market.

As a journalist, I cut my teeth working for Fangoria (back in the Timpone days), Shock Cinema and Psychotronic Video. I also wrote an interview book called Cult People featuring interviews with personalities like Argento, Romero, Craven, Tsukamoto, Claudio Simonetti, Michael Ironside, Michael Paré, Ted Raimi, Lance Henriksen, Billy Drago and several others. For five years, I was also editor in chief of La Cosa, an Argentinian movie magazine focused on sci-fi and horror films.

When I was a teenager, my town had a grindhouse cinema and watching horror double features on 35 mm cemented my love of the genre. When we got cable, I became addicted and spent entire nights watching whatever appeared on HBO and Cinemax. Those were times of double features like Bigelow’s Near Dark followed by Andrew Stevens’ The Terror Within 2. It was the VHS era and I ate up all the classics, but also found out that Latin American and Argentinian genre cinema was not very well known around the globe.

As a journalist, I find that my mission is to help change all that. During the 90’s, Del Toro’s Cronos and later the shot on VHS splatterfest Plaga Zombie became known all over the world. But dozens of other movies (some of them older than that) remain in obscurity.

This monthly column will feature interviews, news, reviews and recommendations that will introduce some of you to the wonderful world of Latin American horror. To others, that are well versed in it, this column will feature stuff that will likely be of interest as well. Now, let’s get to the good stuff!

10 Latin American films you probably haven’t seen (and should)!

I prepared a list of unique, blood splattered and original movies that might not be that familiar to you. So, no Cronos, Alucarda, Terrified, Santa Sangre or Embodiment of Evil here (that said, if you haven’t seen one of these, do it now).

1-El Páramo (2011): It’s a squad of Colombian soldiers vs. something wicked in this surprising effort from director Jaime Osorio Márquez. Nine soldiers get more than they bargained for when they are sent on a special mission to an abandoned outpost on a Colombian hill. There, they find a chained woman who holds a dark secret… but they will have to face their own as well—and they are dark too! Traces of Carpenter and a unique tone make this one of the most interesting and underrated movies from the new wave of Latin American horror.



2-The Black Forest (A Mata Negra, 2018):  Rodrigo Aragao’s film is a demented low budget effort that stormed Sitges’ Brigadoon section two years ago. Deep in the woods, a young girl finds the lost book of Cipriano unaware that it will unleash evil and madness all around her. This Brazilian tour de force has a lot going for it, and when it decides to, it goes all in. It’s visually stunning and features some shots that will reminds us of early Richard Stanley, and that’s saying something.



3-Death Knows Your Name (2005): What a title, right? This Lovecraft inspired splatterfest was the first solo effort by Argentinian filmmaker Daniel de la Vega (who then went on to do White Coffin and the Claudio Simonetti scored neo giallo Necrophobia). Written by Demian Rugna (Terrified), it tells the story of a man who finds a skull identical to his own buried in an old grave. What the hell is going on? Well, you bet it’s some crazy and gory stuff! Amazing practical effects by Rabbid FX and Argento and Raimi inspired camerawork round out a surprising outing that’s ripe for rediscovery. It features a Latin cast speaking English pretending to be US citizens… but who cares, so did lots of the best gialli. Beware of the original US DVD, as it features fullscreen aspect ratio and is lacking some gore. However, if you surf the web hard enough, you’ll find the uncut widescreen version.



4-Darker than Night (Más Negro que la Noche): A Mexican slasher directed by “maestro” Carlos Enrique Taboada, the man behind Even the Wind is Afraid (Hasta el Viento Tiene Miedo). A young girl moves in with her girlfriends to her recently deceased aunt’s abandoned house. Bad idea? You bet. The house’s pet cat appears murdered and that’s only the beginning of a living nightmare about to be unleashed. An unknown specter starts causing mayhem around the house and there’s nowhere to go. Surprising performances and Taboada’s masterful work behind the camera (he’s a master of atmosphere and suspense) make this one a winner. Plus, it was remade a few years ago. You can find the full film with English subs HERE.

5-La Casa de las Siete Tumbas (House of the Seven Tombs): When there was no sign of what direction the new wave of Argentinian horror would take, director Pedro Stocki shot this really strange and unique piece of horror cinema. It stars Soledad Silveyra and Miguel Angel Solá, who are even today among Argentina’s top TV and movie stars. Mind you, this is not for everyone and it’s not easy to find a subtitled copy (the one on YouTube is in Spanish and a VHS-rip), but who knows… Maybe some horror loving angel is reading this and can get ahold of a copy to get it remastered, subtitled and released for the English-speaking market (?).

6-Morgue Story: Sangue, Baiacu e Quadrinhos: This horror comedy from Brazil is a treat for fans of 80’s horror movies. Based on a stage play by the same director, Paulo Biscaia Filho, its low, low, low budget, but fun, fun, fun. Comic book artist Ana Argento (Mariana Zanette) meets two other unusual characters in a morgue and everything spirals out of control… to say the least. Full of twists and turns, Morgue Story replaces its lack of a budget with good ideas and a killer pace. At under 80 minutes, it never lets up. The perfect party movie for a Saturday night during quarantine.



7-Embrujada: Yes, this one is odd! And on a list like this, “odd” is saying something. But John Waters, Frank Henenlotter and Michael Weldon (and me, for that matter) are among those that champion Armando Bo’s 1976 tale of a woman (his girlfriend and muse Isabel “Coca” Sarli) dealing with el Pombero, a demon who preys on lusty girls. Compared to Rosemary’s Baby back in the day (this is much of a stretch, to be honest it), this should be seen by any fan of bizarre and unique films. Sarli is a force of nature in this unapologetically fun and unique film. The search is out for a version with English subtitles, but the original can be found HERE.

8-La Casa del Fin de los Tiempos (House at the Edge of Time): This 2013 mystery horror opus from Venezuela was the country’s top grossing film ever almost a decade ago. However, it should be better known worldwide. Directed by Alejandro Hidalgo, it tells the tale of Dulce, a woman living in an old house with her husband and children. The house’s ghosts try to warn her that something bad will happen, and that’s only the beginning. Thirty years later, she must go back to that haunted place and face it one last time. Atmospheric, full of twists and turns, it’s an often overlooked visual journey.



9-Habitaciones para Turistas (Rooms for Tourists): A black and white, gritty and no holds barred slasher from Argentina. Shot on a shoestring-of-a-shoestring budget, it was the debut of brothers Adrian and Ramiro Garcia Bogliano that still packs a punch. A minor hit back in 2004, it quickly became a cult film. Shot on digital consumer cameras, it looks cool even today thanks to its high contrast black and white cinematography. Five young girls have to spend the night in an old hotel. They have something in common (I won’t spoil it, but it’s a no brainer of an idea), and that secret will get them killed before the sun comes up. A masked stalker with religious motivations starts taking them out one by one. This one is full of pathos that really stays with you. It became one of the pillars of Argentinian horror, way before the local film institute and production companies started funding horror films.



10-Cementerio General: This 2013 offering is Peru’s answer to the found footage genre. Directed by Dorian Fernandez Morris, it was one of the country’s genre top grossing films ever. It was also the film that kickstarted the new wave of Peruvian horror, influenced by landmarks of the genre like the Rec franchise and The Blair Witch Project. A few youngsters play with a Ouija board in the cemetery of Iquitos… obviously not the brightest of ideas. Based on several urban legends, it has a creepy atmosphere taking place in an actual old cemetery and even spawned a sequel because of its success. Be advised that your enjoyment of this one will depend on your tolerance for yet another found footage film. Luckily, it features some “real movie” scenes, like Rec: Genesis did.



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