If you’re looking for some great Mexican horror films to watch this Cinco de Mayo, you’ve come to the right place! Mexican Horror is as rich and varied as any other country’s. Mirroring the trajectory of American horror, you’ll find a range from exploitation to mainstream horror successes. This list will give you a taste of that history with films not only from various decades but also various subgenres.
So relax, remember La Batalla de Puebla and get ready for 5 Mexican Horror Films to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo!
El Espinazo del Diablo / The Devil’s Backbone (2001)
Kicking off the list is a film from perhaps the most famous Mexican horror director Guillermo del Toro. El Espinazo del Diablo is a co-production between Spain and Mexico with Spanish producer Pedro Almodovar Caballero. It is the story of an orphanage in the midst of the Spanish Civil War. Those familiar with del Toro’s work will recognize how the war serves as a backdrop to the supernatural events involving the orphans.
Del Toro fantastically contrasts the whimsy of childhood with the ever-present reminder of death fro both the war and the spirits haunting the orphanage. As the adult characters struggle with their own demons, the children are left to explore the mysterious circumstances surrounding those spirits. With the war approaching every day, the film has a certain sense of dread for which del Toro is famous.
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El Baron del Terror / The Brainiac (1962)
Chano Urueta’s supernatural creature feature El Baron del Terror should catch the interest of exploitation and b-movie horror fans. A 17th century Baron is executed for witchcraft and subsequently curses the descendants of those who killed him, vowing to resurrect with the next passing of a comet. Cut to 1960s Mexico where the Baron does indeed return to exact vengeance and wreak havoc! Did I mention that he does this by transforming into a hairy monster who sucks the brains out of his victim’s skulls? Yeah, it’s that kind of movie. The film, while ridiculous, is an example of some of the best exploitation to come out of Mexico.
Santa Sangre / Holy Blood (1989)
Avant-garde horror fans will likely recognize director Alejandro Jodorowsky whose film credits include El Topo (1970) and The Holy Mountain (1973). The film follows Fenix, a former circus performer confined to an insane asylum. Through flashbacks, we learn the tragic tale of his childhood, and after a chance encounter with someone from his past, Fenix delves into a surreal world involving murder and depravity. The film is weird and jarring in certain senses with a message about the hypocrisy of organized religion. Overall, though, Santa Sangre is beautifully shot and choreographed with an equally beautiful score. If you’re an Argento fan, this is definitely a film you’ll want to check out!
Ahi Va el Diablo / Here Comes the Devil (2012)
Moving on to more modern Mexican horror, Ahi Va el Diablo premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2011. It’s definitely a shocking film with gruesome murders and some uncomfortable sexual situations. Right off the bat, the film starts with a brutal hoe invasion that ends with the invader disappearing into a rocky hill cave. From there, the focus shifts to young family with two teenage kids. After exploring that same cave, the kids go missing only to be found the next day in a stupor. The kids are not the same, however, and the parents set out on their own investigation into what may have happened to them. The film does an incredible job of leaving you uncomfortable and filled with dread similar to that which the characters experience inside that cave.
Mexico Barbaro / Barbarous Mexico (2014)
To cap off this list, we’ve got Mexican horror anthology film Mexico Barbaro. Each of the eight short films was directed by a different Mexican director with some being relative newcomers. This makes the film a great showcase of what Mexico has to offer the genre. The films range in theme and tone from splatter to supernatural with some exceptional shorts that say with you well after you’ve finished. With the quality of films and positive reception from the community, it’s no surprise that the film spawned a sequel in 2017. If you want a taste of Mexican horror and the direction in which it’s headed, Mexico Barbaro will definitely do the job!
Honorable Mention: El Santo
The El Santo series of films are a popular franchise in Mexico with national recognition. While not explicitly horror, El Santo is similar to Abbot and Costello, in that he frequently battles vampires, mummies, and “Frankensteins” all while in his iconic Lucha Libre mask. He is a quintessential Mexican hero and the exploitation style of films should be right up the alley of the Horror Fiends of NOFS who are looking for something a little lighter.
What do you think of these picks? Do you have a favorite Mexican horror film you think should be on this list? Let us know on Twitter, Reddit, and the Horror Fiends of Nightmare on Film Street Facebook group!