Fall is undoubtedly the best time of year, well at least to me. I mean, who doesn’t love the end of summer? Seriously, if you’re one of those weirdos who like the heat and getting sand in your crotch at the beach, you can stop reading. I’ll wait. Like I said, fall is the best season. It’s a time where Pumpkin Spice Lattes are re-introduced for the white girls, Black folks like myself can start prepping for our Thanksgiving sweet potato pies, and sports junkies can start packing on the pounds with hot wings and Pabst Blue Ribbon for football, I guess? But more importantly, fall is home to my favorite holiday, Halloween. And since it coincides with National Hispanic Heritage Month, I ventured out to find which streaming services out of the four horsemen: Disney Plus, Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Max. Coming in at over 20+ Hispanic/Latinx films, HBO Max was the clear winner.
While I won’t go into the specifics of all of the films HBO Max has to offer, I will be covering the three you should check out if you have less than 20mins to spare for some short Halloween spooks, ranked from least to most scary (no spoilers!)
Identity Horror: “Wonder” (2020) written by Gabriel Furman, directed by Javier Molina.
First up on the list as the least scary, but still has a transcending emotional impact that might just scare up a tear or two is “Wonder”. This coming-of-age short film follows a young boy named Sammy (Benji Siege) and his group of foul-mouthed friends that live on the streets of Queens, NY. While walking home together after school, each of them plans what they’ll be for Halloween. One wants to be Black Panther, the other Michelle Obama, and the last Barack Obama–which is quickly humorously rejected by the others, not because it reveals that perhaps one of the friend’s has a crush on the other, but instead it’s rejected since Barack Obama is not Puerto Rican. Sammy, the introverted sheep of his outgoing friend group, who has yet to reveal to his friends his costume idea, happens to see a drag queen (Jamyl Dobson) strutting her stuff down the block adjacent to them. While Sammy’s friends berate the drag queen with a rush of slurs, Sammy instead smiles and finds his inspiration. As soon as Sammy arrives home, viewers can see that his room is full of traditional male stereotypical items. He’s got a sports medal hanging from his bedpost, a football-shaped lamp, posters and drawings of Marvel superheroes strewn across his walls. However, tucked inside a large box underneath his bed is a trove of arts and crafts and a Wonder Woman comic–his costume idea is born. The true essence of this film comes when Sammy’s father (Gabriel Furman) has to decide whether or not he’ll come to terms with his son wanting to dress up as a woman, and the implications of his son’s sexuality down the road. It’s a beautiful film about a young identity crisis and ultimate acceptance all through the eyes of a pre-pubescent boy. You’ll have to watch the short to find out the rest.
Starring: Benji Siege, Gabriel Furman and Jamyl Dobson.
Runtime: 17 mins.
Realistic Horror: “Her Body” (2019) written by Juan Avella and Shelby Farrell, directed by Juan Avella.
Second on the list is a story about the horrors of being an undocumented immigrant in the United States, and the lengths one is willing to go through to obtain citizenship. This high-stakes short begins with the main protagonist, Gina, who finds herself unconscious, bloodied and buried in a heavy plastic body bag. As she tries to free herself from her containment, the viewer is shown jarring flashbacks of what led up to moments of her near-death experience. There’s a lot of social justice commentary and subversions about the “American” experience told through Gina’s memory lapses. For example, Gina’s sister Sara (Krizia Bajos) has decided to go through immigration via military conscription, while Gina decided to shack up with Erick (Aidan Kahn) who represents the “Mr. American” ideal of tall, white, blonde male. Soon viewers, as well as Gina herself, learn that there’s a price to pay for Gina’s rose-colored idealism as her boyfriend isn’t what he claims to be. “Her Body” is a tightly wound revenge story about the lack of freedoms and values placed upon Latinx women that ultimately becomes a tale of female empowerment. You’ll have to watch it yourself to find out why.
Starring: Ilean Almaguer, Krizia Bajos, Aidan Kahn, and Samuel Evan Horowitz.
Runtime: 11 mins.
Traditional Horror: “Lullaby” (2019) written by Eddie Del Carnes and Ashley Fernandez, directed by Randy Valdez .
Last but certainly not least is “Lullaby,” a film that somehow successfully and satisfyingly mashes all your favorite horror tropes into a tiny five-minute film. It starts off establishing the same kind of familiar threads that horror fans are already familiar with. There’s a hardworking single parent that lives in a big creepy house, who definitely has a creepy-ass child that is gonna get wrecked by a ghost. A slight difference here is that by the time the mom (Elaine del Valle) has walked through the door from a presumably long day at the office, the haunting has already gone down. A little bit of light background ghost footstep noise here, and a dash of a blaring sound coming from a static television in the living room ala “Poltergeist” there, and you’ve got a messed up situation that I don’t think I need to spell out for you. While this description sounds cliche as hell, and if we are being honest it is, this short film certainly scared me more than any other film I’ve seen on Netflix as of late (I’m looking at you “The Haunting of Bly Manor”!) What it lacks in fresh ideas, it gains in the implementation of said ideas leaving the viewers with such an unsettling abrupt ending that makes you question if her house was haunted when she bought it or did her creepy ass daughter off-screen have something to do with it? After all, I never did tell you exactly why it’s called “Lullaby.” Once again, you’ll have to watch it to find out. But personally, my money is (always) on the kid.
Starring: Elaine del Valle and Mia Cordova.
Runtime: 7 mins.