Why Latin American and Hispanic audiences love horror movies


This image released by Universal Pictures shows the character of Michael Myers in the 2021 release.

This image released by Universal Pictures shows the character of Michael Myers in the 2021 “Halloween Kills” release.


On a blustery October night, Mia Soto and her friends flocked to the Tower Theater in Sacramento to watch a new horror movie.

That evening, they watched the Icelandic horror film “Lamb,” in which a childless couple discovers a mysterious newborn baby on the family farm and then experiences terrifying events.

From slasher flicks to demonic possession flicks, this isn’t the only horror movie she’s caught this year.

“I love horror movies on every level,” said Soto, 32. “I find all types of horror interesting.”

Latino moviegoers like her have been overrepresented in horror movie screenings for years and Hollywood knows it.

Box office figures showed films with elements of horror resonating with Latinos, whose diverse cultures are imbued with elements of Latin American folklore, magical realism, and Catholicism.

“Horror is one of the most popular genres for the Latino community,” said Ana-Christina Ramón, director of research and civic engagement for the Division of Social Sciences at UCLA.

A 2015 Nielsen analysis found that “Horror fans 23% more likely to be Hispanic than the average consumer and 15% more likely to be African American. ”

On the opening weekend of “Halloween Kills,” Latinos made up one-third of moviegoers, according to the Comscore / Screen Engine PostTrak exit poll, which tracks moviegoer demographics across the United States nationwide, Latinos make up about 19% of the American population, according to the Pew Research Center.

A UCLA Hollywood 2021 diversity report co-authored by Ramón found 3 in 10 of the most popular theatrical releases among Latino audiences last year were horror movies like “Come Play”, “Gretel & Hansel” and “Brahms: The Boy II”.

In 2019, 6 out of 10 were horror titles, including: “The Curse of La Llorona”, “Child’s Play” and “Annabelle Comes Home”.

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Still, Ramón said that most horror film actors are not representative of the diverse audience they most attract.

“It’s definitely something that I see that (movie studios) haven’t capitalized on and has been a bit of a missed opportunity,” she said.

What attracts Latinos to horror movies?

For generations, families across Latin America have passed on to their children stories about monsters and urban legends like La Llorona, El Chupacabra or El Cucuy.

“Part of this is rooted in the Latino culture of having this folklore based on stories passed down through generations that aim to either instill fear in children and keep them in line,” Ramón said. “Our culture (is) so steeped in mythical creatures and legends.”

Ramón is not a horror fan herself, but said her family loved them.

Soto said his appreciation for horror came from his Catholic upbringing. As a child, Soto remembers his religious grandmother telling him stories about the forces of evil and the supernatural.

“Catholicism has dark themes,” she said. “There are saints and there are angels. There are also demons.

One example that comes to Soto’s mind is that of the bloody depictions of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

Soto said his group of friends, who are mostly Mexican Americans, often watch horror movies together.

As a child, Brenda Salguero of Sacramento remembers watching “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and experiencing the night terrors of the film. Despite her fear, she ends up loving dark movies.

In 2018, Salguero, 34, and Orquidea Morales, 36, launched a horror-themed podcast called “Monstras”. Their monthly podcast explores topics like Latin folklore, horror and death. Their first episode on La Llorona, or The Crying Woman, is the most popular to date.

The legend of La Llorona centers on a woman who drowned her two children in a jealous rage and committed suicide after realizing what she had done. Her spirit now wanders the Earth crying and looking for her children, according to the tale.

Another reason Salguero thinks horror movies appeal to Latinos is that movies can help people deal with traumatic events. For example, Mexican director Guillermo del Toro’s film “Pan’s Labyrinth,” for example, depicts a girl traveling to a fantasy kingdom and encountering mythical creatures while living in Spain after the Spanish Civil War.

“I also feel that the horror that many countries went through was part of this,” said Salguero, whose parents lived in El Salvador during the Salvadoran civil war. “I feel like horror could be a way for a lot of people to deal with trauma.”

Diversity in Hollywood

While horror films attract a large Latino audience, they rarely get reflected on the big screen, according to Ramón.

The actors in standalone horror films are still largely white, she said, but film executives will often cast more Latinos if the horror film turns into a franchise.

The fifth installment of the “Scream” franchise, for example, stars actress Melissa Barrera, who starred in the highly anticipated Latino blockbuster “In the Heights” this year.

“They bring that Latino element which is sure to be a huge draw,” she said.

Help us cover the issues that matter most to you through The Sacramento Bee’s partnership with Report for America. Contribute now to support Kim Bojórquez’s coverage of Latino issues in California for the Capitol Bureau – and to fund new journalists.

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Kim Bojórquez joined the Capitol Bureau of the Sacramento Bee as a member of the Report for America body in 2020. She covers Latin American communities in California. Before joining The Bee, she worked for Deseret News in Salt Lake City.

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