It’s time to get spooky with a themed playlist from Valeria Villegas Lindvall (University of Gothenburg, Sweden):
Vivas y furiosas (alive and furious): Women in Latin American Horror
Thanks to scholars, festival programmers, activists, writers and creators, the work of women within horror and fantasy has gained renewed attention and recognition. The publication of keen and varied studies is a key part of this unparalleled moment. Cases in point are the release of Alexandra Heller-Nicholas’ remarkable 1000 women in horror: 1895-2015; the recent publication of Women Make Horror: Filmmaking, Feminism and Genre, edited by Alison Peirse (the first study of its kind!) and the forthcoming Bloody Women! Women Directors of Horror, edited by Victoria McCollum and Aislinn Clarke. These scholarly efforts reflect the incredibly wide array of female/femme collaborators across the board, in front and behind the scenes, throughout time, cultural and political contexts.
This moment, combined with COVID’s requirements of distancing, has also prompted the creation of specialized, Latin America networks, festivals and activities with the same purpose that have thrived online. Such is the case of Final Girls Chile who, taking inspiration from the exceptional Final Girls Berlin, have developed a film festival (12-15 November) to champion genre filmmaking by female, non-binary and trans folx. Under this initiative, multiple partnerships have flourished, such as those with Macabro Coven (part of the mainstay Macabro Film Festival in Mexico) and the Grita: El terror no lo callamos más virtual community.
This list aims to highlight some of the new blood pumped in Latin American genre filmmaking via several features directed by women, a matter in which I take great interest for my research, which focuses on genre features by way of feminist and decolonial critique. Beating at the heart of both established and up and coming voices, these horrific passages offer a glance of the unparalleled creativity brewing in Latin American, contemporary genre filmmaking.
Culture Shock (Gigi Saul Guerrero, 2019)
This is the first feature length film by the Mexican-Canadian filmmaker. Embedded in a pivotal moment where xenophobic rhetoric runs rampant across borders, the film makes the border its site of rebellion in a powerful statement where the “American Dream” is revealed as a gilded cage. I wrote a piece regarding the film for Screen Queens.
Vuelven (Tigers are not afraid. Issa López, 2017)
López sets this story at the peak of the Mexican drug war, unveiling the ways in which the aftermath reaches children. A startling operation of metonymy that voices the pain of all those lost in the crossfire of narcoviolence and today remain faceless ––and an unsuspected note of hope for those who remain.
The film is available on Shudder.
Diablo Rojo PTY (Sol Moreno and J. Nájera, 2019)
For your consideration, the first Panamanian horror film. Its strident colors turn the idea of folk horror on its head and update it with gore and striking images of Panamanian brujas (witches) heralding the return of La Tulivieja, a spirit that raises hell in the life of a truck driver. Moreno and Nájera also organize the Panama Horror Film Festival, which celebrates its fifth edition this year.
The film is available on Amazon.
As boas maneiras (Good manners. Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra, 2017)
Portraying queer intimacy with unparalleled tenderness and skill, the film introduces an updated and reformulated story of the lobisomem (werewolf). A hybrid between musical, fantasy and horror, this feature is, in my opinion, one of the brightest stars to come out of Brazil in the past decade. A great companion to Rojas’ fantasy feature Sinfonia da Necrópole (Symphony of Necropolis, 2014).
Mujer lobo (She Wolf, Tamae Garateguy, 2013)
The Argentinian filmmaker delivers a provocative portrait of unbridled sexuality and revenge in this erotic horror feature. The film follows a serial killer that lurks in Buenos Aires’ subway to find men and slay them, taking cues from crime film and even exploitation, that grant a true gritty, punk feel to the main (and multiple-faced) character. A fascinating take on the fragmentation of the self and an anti-hero to root for.
LINK TO THE TRAILER: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RHmk46w45SU
Matar al dragón (To kill the dragon. Jimena Monteoliva, 2020)
This film is still making the rounds in festivals (after accruing several awards, most recently Macabro’s award to Best Ibero-American Feature Film), but it deserves to be pinned as part of a watch list. This visually striking work follows Elena, who after being kidnapped returns to her family, harassed by a past that she needs to slay once and for all. Monteoliva’s Clementina, a portrayal of domestic violence and revenge via horror, is available on Cine.Ar – a good way to get acquainted with the filmmakers’ work.
La rabia de Clara (Clara’s rage, short film – Michelle Garza Cervera, 2016)
After an unexpected encounter with a wild dog, Clara is kept in isolation by her husband and mother in this film, which avidly explores contention in the domestic space and the policing of female sexuality and corporeality in rural Mexico. Garza’s capabilities of conjuring atmospheres loaded with tension, dread and melancholy come through in her short films, several of which you can find on Vimeo. These are just a taste of what will come with her first full-length feature, Huesera, currently in development. I believe she is one of the most promising voices in contemporary Mexican horror film ––I will bet my bruja card or have it revoked if I’m wrong.
LINK TO THE SHORT FILM: https://vimeo.com/402291562
These lucky seven are only some of the rising directors within Latin American genre film, although I would be remiss if I did not point you towards Laura Casabé (Argentina. Los que vuelven – The returned, 2019), Sofía Carrillo (Mexico. La Bruja del Fósforo Paseante – The wandering witch, 2018), Mavi Simão (Brasil. Terminal Praia Grande, 2020) and Paulette Lecaros (Chile. Fury, 2018).
Valeria Villegas Lindvall is a doctoral candidate in Film Studies at University of Gothenburg, Sweden. Her research brings a feminist focus to the understanding of the Latin American female monsters leading to chapters in Women Make Horror: Filmmaking, feminism and genre (ed. Alison Peirse, Rutgers University Press) and the forthcoming The Body Onscreen in the Digital Age. Essays on voyeurism, violence and power (ed. Susan Flynn, McFarland Press). She is a contributing editor in MAI: Feminism and Visual Culture and has collaborated with popular magazines (Screen Queensand Grim Magazine), most prominently as a co-editor, writer and translator at Rolling Stone Mexico.