Gigi Saul Guerrero: The Face of Mexican American Horror Cinema [Horror En Español]
While my column, Horror En Español, is used to highlight genre films from Latin America, there are a handful of Latine stories being told in America that deserve a spot to be covered. Starting from the 2010s, an influx of projects have started to surface about the Latine experiences and struggles in America. There’s one person who deserves their own spotlight as she is at the forefront and innovator of Mexican American horror films. And that is who I’ve called before, The Gore Queen Guerreo, Gigi Saul Guerrero.
Luchagore’s Passion for Short Films and Practical Effects
The Latine community got a huge win this year with the announcement of the new list of directors for V/H/S/85. Within this list of already great directors, Gigi Saul Guerrero stood out to me the most. This Mexican Canadian director has made a name for herself within the horror community with her two feature-length films and copious amounts of short films.
Guerrero’s passion for filmmaking is clear and abundant. Her multiple short films range in diverse storytelling but there’s one factor that keeps these narratives connected. It’s her love for the gooey practical effects. Through the help of her company, Luchagore Production, a name I love dearly, Guerrero is able to accomplish impressive and believable practical effects and stories. No matter how big or small the project is, Guerrero brings the same effort and expertise behind and in front of the camera. Even if it’s a two-minute video about Guerrero using a cheap face mask that rips off her face, rest assured that Guerrero will bring her A game.
Guerrero’s Signature Style of Filmmaking
My introduction to Luchagore Productions and Guerrero’s filmmaking was through El Gigante, courtesy of Shudder at the time. El Gigante follows a man in search of his missing daughter who gets captured by a deranged family. His escape is only granted if he fights a powerful luchador. The short encapsulates Guerrero’s trademarks of using Mexican culture within her narratives, the use of practical effects, and her Grindhouse aesthetic that she continuously captures.
But she wouldn’t be at this level of expertise if it wasn’t for one of her early shorts, Dead Crossing. This was Guerrero dipping her toes into what eventually evolved into her signature style. The film is about three Mexicans at the border running from Americans who are hellbent for blood. According to Spoon Studio’s past live event, The Bloody Films of Gigi Saul Guerrero, this was Guerrero’s first attempt at using blood. While rough at certain points it was still entertaining and commented on Mexican immigrant struggles. Dead Crossing also led to meeting the majority of the crew from Luchagore Productions.
From there on out, Luchagore Productions has made some outstanding shorts as they perfected Guerrero’s cinematic vision. Some of these have even made their way into official horror film anthologies. There are two shorts that come to mind that display Guerrero and her team’s visual style of the Grindhouse aesthetic that stemmed from Dead Crossing. On top of that, these two shorts have a recurring theme of fighting against misogyny through a feminist revenge narrative. I will always be here for good-for-her films fighting against the machismo and misogynistic mentality within the Latine community. Mexico Barbaro (Dia de los Muertos) and ABC’s of Death 2 (M is for Matador) present this theme through female protagonists who embark on a quick journey of vengeance filled with horror and bloody practical effects.
The Minority Experience in America
But Guerrero is still impressive when it comes to her feature-length films and most importantly she never forgets to uplift marginalized voices. Partnering up with Blumhouse Productions, her two feature films, Culture Shock and Bingo Hell, give minority voices a platform to be heard. Culture Shock, her feature-length directorial debut, portrays a young Mexican woman who crosses into the United States illegally while pursuing the American Dream. The film comments on the struggles of crossing the border undocumented as well as the American migration system’s ability to dehumanize foreigners. The political messages are tied around both a grimy iteration of the real America next to the hyper-fantasized perfect small-town America akin to The Stepford Wives.
Her second feature, Bingo Hell, takes the viewers to a friendly neighborhood setting; el barrio of Oak Springs. While this isn’t a strictly Latine story like our past examples, the issues presented affect many minorities due to gentrification. The film follows Abuelita Lupita (Adrianna Barraza), a familiar presence within Mexican American households with her stubborn but charming attitude. She joins forces with her elderly POC friends to take down the new bingo establishment that is led by Mr. Big (Richard Brake), who is personified as destructive and violent oppression.
Guerrero’s filmography is a perfect example of highlighting Mexican culture through American horror cinema. The Latine struggles depicted through her films are greatly represented and genuine. These shorts and features make me greatly anticipate her inclusion in the V/H/S franchise and future projects The Gore Queen Guerrero has planned.
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