Apparitions! Mexico and its (almost) Gothic horror cinema

Enter to this macabre and fantastic universe of images capable of moving the strongest spirits.

By Fundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Poster for "La Llorona" [The Crying Woman] (1933) by Autor no identificadoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Apparitions! Mexico and its (almost) Gothic horror cinema
You mortals, who dare to go through this macabre manifestation of filmic horror, display of images capable of moving the strongest spirits; you, future inhabitants of Mictlán!, be aware that once the tour has started there is no going back. And, unless you are flimsy and a wuss, you will be able to enjoy —discovering or remembering, according to your longevity— this journey through the deep abysses of Mexican cinematography.

Eduardo Arozamena and Lupita Tovar in "Drácula" (1931) by Fotógrafo no identificadoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Scene from "Dos monjes" [Two Monks] (1934) by Agustín JiménezFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Scene from "El fantasma del convento" [The Phantom of the Convent] (1934) by Agustín JiménezFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Enrique Gonce y Esther Fernández in "El baúl macabro" [TheMacabre Trunk] (1936) by Adolfo Martínez SolaresFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Max Langler and Elena D’Orgaz in "El signo de la muerte" [The Sign of Death] (1939) by Gabriel de Rosas (atribuida)Fundación Televisa Collection and Archive

In Mexico, where the inexplicable has spawned the most varied legends and superstitions, there have been many cinematographic attempts to look into the afterlife. Popular legends integrated into the picturesque environment such as El ahijado de la muerte (Norman Foster, 1946), Macario (Roberto Gavaldón, 1959) or La dama del alba (Emilio Gómez Muriel, 1949), as well as different paths explored by talented directors attracted by the supernatural —Fernando Méndez, Juan López Moctezuma, Carlos Enrique Taboada or Guillermo del Toro— and others that barely scratched the surface of the genre —Juan Bustillo Oro, Fernando de Fuentes, Luis Alcoriza or Arturo Ripstein— have given the best fruits of the fantastic national.

Arturo de Córdova in "El hombre sin rostro" [The Man Without a Face] (1950) by Fotógrafo no identificadoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Wolf Ruvinskis in "Ladrón de cadáveres" [The Body Snatcher] (1956) by Rafael García J.Fundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Ángel Di Stefani y Rosita Arenas in "La momia azteca" [The Aztec Mummy] (1957) by Fotógrafo no identificadoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Germán Robles in "El vampiro" [The Vampire] (1957) by Fotógrafo no identificadoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Carlos Ancira and Mapy Cortés in "Misterios de ultratumba" [The Black Pit of Dr. M] (1958) by Manuel Álvarez BravoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Arturo de Córdova in "El esqueleto de la señora Morales" [Skeleton of Mrs. Morales] (1905-05-12) by Manuel Álvarez BravoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Advertising for the third film version of "La Llorona" [The Crying Woman] (1960) by Autor no identificadoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Joaquín Cordero in "Orlak, el infierno de Frankenstein" [The Hell of Frankenstein] (1960) by Fotógrafo no identificadoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

However, most of these shiny adventures are the product of pieceworkers who tirelessly recycle the conventions of the genre. It doesn't matter that the threat comes from an old cemetery, from a laboratory in the Doctores neighborhood, from a comet not foreseen by astrologers, or from a crashed Transilvanian Air Lines plane; the monsters of Mexican cinema, almost always deserters from Hollywood, are annihilated by the crucifix, the purifying fire, the stake in the heart and the silver bullets, but also by some well-applied huracarranas.

Scene from "El mundo de los vampiros" [The World of Vampires] (1960) by Fotógrafo no identificadoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Elvira Quintana in "Muñecos infernales" [The Curse of the Doll People] (1960) by Fotógrafo no identificadoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Abel Salazar in "El barón del terror" [The Brainiac] (1961) by Alfredo RuvalcabaFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Enrique Lucero in "La maldición de La Llorona" [The Curse of the Crying Woman] (1961) by Rafael García J.Fundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Carlos López Moctezuma in "La maldición de La Llorona" [The Curse of the Crying Woman] (1961) by Rafael García J.Fundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Erna Martha Bauman in "La invasión de los vampiros" [The Invasion of the Vampires] (1961) by Fotógrafo no identificadoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Lorena Velázquez in "Atacan las brujas" [The Witches Attack] (1964) by Fotógrafo no identificadoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

In this industrial logic, the overflowing imagination of advertisers in no way corresponds to the very earthy talents of directors and storytellers. Who could resist to “Beautiful women in the most horrendous blood orgies!” (El imperio de Drácula) or to “Exotic dances and erotic exorcisms in the invocations of a diabolical and deadly rite!” (La muerte viviente)?

Ofelia Montesco in "Pánico", one of the stories from "Cien gritos de terror" [100 Cries of Terror] (1964) by Othón ArgumedoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Joaquín Cordero in "Dr. Satán" (1966) by Alfredo RuvalcabaFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Scene from "La señora muerte" [Madame Death] (1967) by Fotógrafo no identificadoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Scene from "La cámara del terror" [Fear Chamber] (1968) by Ciro GonzálezFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Carlos Piñar, Armando Silvestre and Augusto Benedico in "La puerta" [The Door] (1968) by Fotógrafo no identificadoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Scene from "La mansión de la locura" [The Mansion of Madness] (1971) by Fotógrafo no identificadoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Carmen Montejo in "Doña Macabra" [Madame Macabre] (1971) by Raúl ArgumedoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

I propose not to resist and to enjoy, without remorse, a cinema that on more than one occasion raised the spectators from their seats, which forced the bravest to close their eyes and the most reserved young women to seek refuge in their suitor's chest; a cinema whose only danger is to make us accept our taste for films that with little budget and dull ideas take us to the darker side of our childhood.

Advertising for the press coverage of "Santo vs. las lobas" [Santo vs. the She-Wolves] (ca. 1976) by Autor no identificadoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Lucía Méndez in "Más negro que la noche" [Darker Than Night] (1974) by Fotógrafo no identificadoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Poster for "Los enviados del infierno (El maleficio 2)" [The Messengers from Hell (The Hex 2)] (1986) by Autor no identificadoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Scene from "Cementerio del terror" [Cemetery of Terror] (1985) by Ángel CoronaFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Katia Tirado in "Sobrenatural" [All of them Witches] (1996) by José Luis TurueñoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Poster for "Cronos" (1993) by Lourdes Ladrón de GuevaraFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Credits: Story

This exhibition is based on the photographic exhibition Apparitions! Mexico and its (almost) Gothic horror cinema , presented at the 13th edition of the Morelia International Film Festival (FICM) in October 2015.

Curatorship, research and texts: Héctor Orozco.
Digital processes: Omar Espinoza.
Archive and research: Gustavo Fuentes.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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