Cronos (1993) Rated R
Director: Guillermo del Toro | Writer: Guillermo del Toro | Stars: Federico Luppi, Ron Perlman, Claudio Brook
Horror movies often feature some mysterious device that either grants its owner some superhero ability or curses them forever. Cronos is a movie about the latter. Some strange device, designed to grant its owner eternal life, is discovered after hundreds of years, and it doesn’t bring anything good with it. This is the first of two Guillermo del Toro entries on this list (no surprise there) - though, technically, he’s only responsible for the screenplay in the second one. Still, if you like del Toro’s work at all, you should add these to your “to watch” list.
Santa Sangre (1989) Rated NC-17
Director: Alejandro Jodorowsky | Writers: Alejandro Jodorowsky (story & screenplay), Roberto Leoni (adaptation & screenplay), Claudio Argento (screenplay) | Stars: Axel Jodorowsky, Blanca Guerra, Guy Stockwell
Remember when I said there would be a couple stretches, in terms of "Mexican Horror", this is one of them. It's only connection is that it's filmed in Mexico. Still this movie is, to say the very least, something else. It is a weird, unsettling collection of disturbing and violent imagery. A young man is confined in a mental hospital due to the years of violent physical and psychological trauma he was exposed to as a child, at the hands of his own father (who happens to be a crazy, religious fanatic). The movie’s first half is essentially a flashback about the trauma, followed by the man’s escape and reunion with his mother (who was also tortured by the father). This is no Nicholas Sparks-esque reunion, this is horrible and violent and upsetting. Do yourself a favor and give it a watch.
Patient 27 (2014) No Rating
Director: Alejandro G. Alegre | Writer: Alejandro G. Alegre | Stars: Marcos Duarte, Isaac Perez Calzada, Itzel Enciso
This is a lesser-known, hard-to-find movie. You may have to do some searching to actually find a place to watch it but, if you do, consider yourself lucky, I guess. I’m basing that assumption entirely on the two people I’ve talked to, who have both seen this movie and have positive things to say about it (and whose judgement I usually trust). The movie is about a man who starts to notice strange things about a patient receiving treatment at the lab where he works. Patient number 27...dun dun dun! These strange things really start to take their collective tolls on this guy, even to the extent of causing severe insomnia and hallucinations. If you’re like me, this little description is enough to make you want to find this movie and watch it. If you do find it, let me know where, please!
Night of a Thousand Cats (1972) Rated R
Director: Rene Cardona Jr. | Writers: Rene Cardona Jr., Mario A. Zacarias | Stars: Anjanette Comer, Hugo Stiglitz, Zulma Faiad
If that title alone doesn’t pull you in, maybe the idea of a thousand blood-thirsty cats, feasting on the chopped-up body parts of a killer’s victims will. I mean, just let that sink in. It's a pretty crazy concept and, I won’t lie, this movie isn’t really that great. Meaning, it's never going to go down in history as a "classic", but it’s definitely an amusing watch.
We Are What We Are (2010) Not Rated
Director: Jorge Michel Grau | Writer: Jorge Michel Grau | Stars: Francisco Barreiro, Adrian Aguirre, Miriam Balderas
Not to be confused with the other We Are What We Are (2013) that has been streaming on Netflix for the past year or so. That is the remake and, while it isn’t bad and is worth checking out, this one is the original and the original foreign versions of movies are almost always better. This movie tells the story of a strange family who are involved in some weird rituals, and how their weird rituals tie into the fact that they like to eat people. Cannibals ftw!
Poison for the Fairies (1984) No Rating
Director: Carlos Enrique Taboada | Writer: Carlos Enrique Taboada (story & screenplay) | Stars: Ana Patricia Rojo, Elsa Maria Gutierrez, Leonor Llausas
Little-kid killers (not to be confused with little kid-killers, which are much different) are always fun to see in horror movies. So when one of the killer kids convinces her close pal that she’s a witch and that she must now serve her, you know great things are about to happen. I doubt many people would call this an actual “horror” movie, but it could easily be one of those movies that was fun but also scared you when you were a kid. That being said, I know there are plenty horror-loving adults out there who would also appreciate this little treat.
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (2010) Rated R
Director: Troy Nixey | Writers: Guillermo del Toro (screenplay), Matthew Robbins (screenplay) | Stars: Katie Holmes, Guy Pearce, Bailee Madison
Those who have seen del Toro’s Crimson Peak (2015), won’t be surprised to know that it wasn’t his first foray into writing a Gothic-style horror movie. He seems to enjoy, and be quite good at, creating a dark, haunting atmosphere in his horror movies. While del Toro is really the only thing that ties Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark to this list of Mexican horror flicks, I’ll take it. Plus, the story is about a little girl who moves to a new house, where she believes she’s responsible for releasing some creatures from the sealed ash pit that served as their prison. How can that not be at least a little bit interesting??
El Vampiro (1957) No Rating
Director: Fernando Mendez | Writers: Ramon Obon (story & adaptation), Ramon Rodriguez (screenplay) | Stars: Abel Salazar, Ariadna Welter, Carmen Montejo
We’ve all been there, you come home to make funeral arrangements for a beloved family member, and you end up having to deal with the fact that your hometown is being overrun with vampires. Pretty common story, really. El Vampiro is one of the more enjoyable vampire movies I’ve seen - there’s something about black & white vampire movies that’s just better than the ones in color, ya know?
Here Comes the Devil (2012) Not Rated
Director: Adrian Garcia Bogliano | Writer: Adrian Garcia Bogliano | Stars: Laura Caro, Francisco Barreiro, Michele Garcia
It’s every parent's worst nightmare (maybe almost every parent’s worst nightmare), while enjoying a family vacation in Tijuano, a couple’s two children go missing. The kids are eventually reunited with their parents, but it’s clear that something is not right. The mystery of what happened to these kids may have something to do with the strange caves in the area...
The Blue Eyes (2012) No Rating
Director: Eva Aridjis | Writer: Eva Aridjis | Stars: Zachary Booth, Allison Case, Rafael Cortes
Written and directed by Eva Aridjis, the only lady-director/writer on this list (le sigh), The Blue Eyes was a Kickstarter-backed movie. This movie can prove a little difficult to track down - I was lucky enough to find it on YouTube, but I did see it’s available to rent on Vimeo. Ms. Aridjis is up to come cool stuff. She’s currently working on a full-length documentary, called Chuy, the Wolf Man, about a Mexican family diagnosed with congenital hypertrichosis (aka “werewolf syndrome"). This movie, however, centers around an American couple who have a life-changing experience on their trip to Chiapas, Mexico. This isn’t your average “life-changing” trip, mind you. This is “life-changing” because of the horrible, shape-shifting witch they meet.