[Gruesome Exclusive] SCARRED FOR LIFE – April 2024 – Tony Timpone

With Cinco de Mayo just a few weeks away, we thought it would be fun to check in with some of our favorite Spanish-speaking directors (hailing from Spain and Latin America) for this month’s trauma-inducing Scarred for Life column.

Satanic Hispanics unites five of these foreign helmers, plus Alberto (Baghead) Corredor and Caye (The Coffee Table) Casas offer unique visions of terror in their own films. Fear translates well in any language. Muy aterradora!

Eduardo Sanchez, co-director (The Blair Witch Project); director (Yellowjackets, Altered, Lovely Molly, Exists, and Satanic Hispanics now streaming on Shudder)

“I was like 7 or 8 when I caught The Legend of Boggy Creek [1972] on TV. It messed me up for life. That final act still haunts me. The mothers and the kids in that cabin—that arm through the window! Holy shit. The stuff of nightmares for many years to come. We had a bit of woods behind our apartment complex, and I was sure Bigfoot lived there. I’ve said it many times before: Without Boggy Creek there would’ve been no Blair Witch.”

Demián Rugna, writer/director (Terrified, When Evil Lurks, and Satanic Hispanics, now streaming on Shudder)

“First of all, I became a superfan—and I still am—of the miniseries V [1983], because it was a great success in my country [Argentina]. Personally, it perfectly amalgamated horror with sci-fi with very powerful ideas of social experiments, invasion of bodies, and conspiracy that survive today. It was a series which impacted all ages, and as a little kid, I played as part of the resistance, shooting my laser guns against spaceships.

“Another movie that seriously marked me was Friday the 13th: Part 3 [1982] because it was the first movie in the saga that I saw. It was the first slayer of that kind, with ultraviolent gore, spurting blood and guts, like I had never seen before. It was the definitive movie to make me fall in love at the feet of gore.

Critters [1986] was another one that changed my approach to horror movies a lot. At 9 years old, I loved those characters. When all my friends at school worshiped Gremlins, I insisted that Critters was much better because these little monsters were more badass, more terrifying, and they murdered people more explicitly. They were surely more dangerous than the friendly green friends.”

Alejandro Brugués, writer/director (Juan of the Dead, Nightmare Cinema, ABCs of Death 2, and Satanic Hispanics, now streaming on Shudder)

The Fearless Vampire Killers [1967], from Roman Polanski, is one of my earliest memories from watching a movie. I was a kid, so probably 5 or 6. This is Cuba, early ’80s, so most likely my parents left the TV on without really knowing what was playing, and I probably stayed up too late on a Saturday night. I remember how freaked out I was about this movie. I knew the concept of vampires, and it probably wasn’t the first one I saw (most likely the classics), but there was something about these vampires that fucked me up. Their teeth weren’t perfect; not just pointy fangs, but what seemed to me like a mouthful of horrible sharp teeth. And they didn’t only bite your neck but could attack in packs and bite your legs or arms.

“It wasn’t until way later when I studied film and decided to rewatch all the movies that made me love horror, that I realized it was a hilarious horror-comedy. Which, looking back, makes all the sense, considering how I turned out. But some scenes have never left me, like that ending and the fate of the protagonist when you thought he had escaped. Definitely one I can go back to, from time to time, to understand where I came from.”

Gigi Saul Guerrero, director (Into the Dark: Culture Shock, The Purge: The Series, El Gigante, and Satanic Hispanics, now streaming on Shudder)

“For me, there’s only one answer: 1990’s Child’s Play 2! Listen, I come from a super-religious Mexican family. For my mom and Abuela [grandmother], literally, everything was ‘The Devil.’ There were very strict rules on what I could and couldn’t watch. Of course, my curiosity won the battle, and I stole the VHS of that movie from Blockbuster when I was 8 years old.

“This rebellious act changed my life forever. I got to experience the true impact a movie can do to you, how horror movies especially can ‘follow you home.’ I felt the presence of Chucky in my room. From then on, my mom hasn’t been able to control me!”

Mike Mendez, director (Big Ass Spider!, The Convent, The Gravedancers, Tales of Halloween and Satanic Hispanics, now streaming on Shudder)

“I have two very specific moments that scarred me for life. Both stemmed from seeing movies when I was too young. My dad was not big on babysitters and loved movies, as did my brother, so they dragged me to everything that was playing. The rating did not matter. And I remember seeing a movie called The Hills Have Eyes [1977] when I was 3 years old. At the moment where that cannibal was in the RV and grabbed the canary out of its cage and squeezed his blood out, that is one of those things that changed me forever. As a child, you just have an attachment to small animals, and to see it get crushed, and its blood drunk, it was something that will always stay with me.

“And as bad as that was, I also remember being heavily scarred by the end of Carrie [1976]. When that hand comes out of the grave, that fucked me up. I still have residual fears of being grabbed at the ankle.”

Alberto Corredor, director (Baghead, now streaming on Shudder)

“Growing up, my parents had a pretty laid-back approach when it came to picking movies at the local VHS video store. That’s how, at around 10, I saw Dan Coscarelli’s Phantasm [1979], and boy, did it leave a mark. This film wasn’t just weird; it had this creepy vibe that took it to a whole new level of bizarre. The parts with the killer sphere that drills into people’s heads were super-gory, and the Tall Man was downright terrifying. But what really got to me was the scene where people in an old photo seemed to come alive. That was the definition of uncanny, and it freaked me out big time. For a while, I wasn’t able to look at photographs without feeling a sense of dread. Even now, when I think about that film, I get the chills.”

Caye Casas, writer/director (Asylum: Twisted Horror and Fantasy Tales, Killing God and The Coffee Table, in theaters April 19 and on DVD and VOD May 14)

“There are many films that have influenced me. But if I have to choose one, that would be The Day of the Beast [1995] by Spanish director Álex de la Iglesia. More than a horror movie, it is a black comedy, very black, very Spanish, perhaps it is the first time that a film has been made where Spanish culture is reflected so well, in this case, the streets of Madrid. The central theme is the birth of the Antichrist. The dialogue is every day, the characters are normal people, and [the whole thing has] a very picturesque tone. The black humor is brilliant, and it was de la Iglesia’s first great success. It is a film that is a reference for a large number of directors in my country.

“Another great reference for me is not horror, but it is terrifying in many ways: Happiness [1998] by Todd Solondz, a masterpiece. For me, the most politically incorrect film I have ever seen, also the one with the darkest humor in history and some truly pure-terror sequences, like the ones with the pedophile father and his son or with the child’s friend. It’s really brutal. I love it, and more films as risky as this one are necessary. It’s not horror, but it has sequences you wish you hadn’t seen, a great reference for my film The Coffee Table. So, The Day of the Beast and Happiness … without a doubt, my two great references.”

Josiah Allen and Indianna Bell, directors (You’ll Never Find Me, now streaming on Shudder)

“Looking back, Josiah and I can both pinpoint childhood movies, whilst not strictly ‘horrors,’ that allowed us to safely experience fear and opened us up to how entertaining it could be. For me, it was The Black Cauldron, a 1985 Disney film that absolutely scared the shit out of me as a kid. With its animated skeletons shrouded in tattered clothing and glowing red eyes, I distinctly remember the thrill of watching something that made me feel terror. Once you’ve experienced it, it’s something that you find yourself searching for in every movie that you watch.”

Adam Newman, co-writer/director (Everwinter Night, now on VOD )

Creepshow [1982], specifically the segment ‘They’re Creeping Up On You.’ I was very young when my dad was watching it and have always been grossed out by bugs and the human body. This short was able to combine both of these in such a way that I gave up on any horror movies until my late 20s. I barely remember it and will never watch it again.

“Bonus fun title: The Brave Little Toaster [1987]. There’s a scene where the vacuum cleaner character is choking on its own cord. Traumatizing.”

Jason Jenkins, author (Phantom Limbs, now available from Encyclopocalypse Publications)

“I was terrified of monsters as a kid. And yet, when invited on a trip to the local movie theater by a friend and fellow third grader, I found myself putting on a brave face and pretending to be excited about the film selection—some scary flick called Nightbreed [1990].

“I made it about 15 minutes into the film. After seeing a horrific opening montage of various creatures, a middle-aged couple slaughtered in their home by a masked slasher, and a giggling madman gleefully attempting to tear off his face, my bullshit bravado finally failed me. I stood up and marched out into the lobby, then snuck into the John Larroquette/Kirstie Alley comedy Madhouse.

Nightbreed has stayed with me. Haunted me. Once the film hit VHS, I became a rabid fan. I watched it over and over. I fell in love with monsters because of that movie and immediately sought out any and every horror film I could lay my mitts on. Nightbreed was surely the gateway drug that started it all. Nightbreed taught me to fear monsters, then to love them, and eventually to want to become them. No other movie has had such an impact.”

(See here for a link to past Scarred for Life columns. Follow me on Twitter: @tonytimpone1 and Instagram: timponetony)

Tony Timpone