Thu. Sep 21st, 2023

Each of the featured shorts in “Satanic Hispanics” appears stretched well beyond its conceptual limits, even the pulpy but otherwise unremarkable wrap-around segment. The titular rambler of “The Traveler” is played by “Napoleon Dynamite” star Efren Ramirez. Ramirez hisses and groans at all the right moments as he warns a pair of skeptical American cops (Sonya Eddy and Greg Grunberg) to prepare for the arrival of San La Muerte (Saint Death), a vengeful Paraguayan wraith. 

Ramirez’s character threads the needle of his story with four otherwise unrelated vignettes. His world-weary performance still can’t add enough diverting tension to this knowingly slight material, whose main joke seems to be how funny it is to go through the motions, only this time with weary Latinx characters. Ramirez’s schtick also wears thin fast, given how often he has to warn the wrong-headed cops that there’s no time; he’s already explained about San La Muerte, so you must trust him. Ok, but why?

The best segments in “Satanic Hispanics” have more standout qualities than a clear sense of purpose or ingenuity. In “Nahuales,” director Gigi Saul Guerrero (“Bingo Hell”) and co-writers Shadan Saul and Raynor Shima start with a great premise: De la Cruz (Ari Gallegos), a CIA collaborator, gets captured and tortured by the animalistic “Nahuales,” a group of Mexican animal-men. The rest of the segment feels like a warm-up for what might eventually become more than just a showcase for cool folk-horror makeup. 

The same is basically true of “También Lo Vi,” an atmospheric ghost story about Gustavo (Demian Salomon), a Rubik’s Cube-obsessed loner who accidentally opens a door to the afterlife in his mood-lit apartment building. A weird and only partly sensible haunting ensues, followed by an anti-climactic finale that’s only charming if you don’t mind its familiarity. 

To be fair, it is nice to see a talented make-up effects team show off their gross-out gifts, and Salomon’s lurching performance perfectly suits his character. I’m also looking forward even more to the next feature by Argentinian writer/director Demian Rugna (“Terrified”), which presumably will demand more of the talented filmmaker. 

By Dave Jenks

Dave Jenks is an American novelist and Veteran of the United States Marine Corps. Between those careers, he’s worked as a deckhand, commercial fisherman, divemaster, taxi driver, construction manager, and over the road truck driver, among many other things. He now lives on a sea island, in the South Carolina Lowcountry, with his wife and youngest daughter. They also have three grown children, five grand children, three dogs and a whole flock of parakeets. Stinnett grew up in Melbourne, Florida and has also lived in the Florida Keys, the Bahamas, and Cozumel, Mexico. His next dream is to one day visit and dive Cuba.