A fan of horror films since the age of 4, screenwriter and native of San Antonio Marcella Ochoa has long wanted to write a horror film featuring Latinos.
Ochoa’s grandparents, aunts and uncles were migrant farm workers, and she felt connected to their stories. When she started doing more research into the lives of people who worked on the farm in the 1970s, she came across an article that troubled her. We’ll spare the details to hold back spoilers, but she knew right away that the story could be the basis of the horror film she wanted to write.
“I thought the story had to be told,” Ochoa told the Running during a recent interview. “That was my motivation – to educate an audience that didn’t know it had happened. I think horror is a great way to tell these social justice stories. ”
Ochoa’s film Madres is one of the four features that make up the anthology series Welcome to the Blumhouse. It tells the story of Beto (Tenoch Huerta) and Diana (Ariana Guerra), a young Mexican-American couple who are expecting their first child. They moved to a small California town in the 1970s after Beto landed a job running a farm. However, the community is not what Diana expects, and she soon realizes that the dark secrets the city hides could have dire consequences for the family.
In an interview with the Running, Ochoa, who attended St. George Episcopal and Locke Hill Elementary as a child, spoke about her obsession with the horror genre and what she thinks makes a great horror movie. Madres premieres on Amazon Prime on October 8 as part of Welcome to the Blumhouse.
Why was it important for you to write a horror movie with Latino characters?
Being Mexican Americans, our stories are never told to us, especially in the horror genre. It’s something really important to me in everything I do. I wanna tell our stories where it’s not stereotypical [and] where we are the main characters and the heroes. I want to show our community and change the narrative of how we are viewed.
What do you think of horror movies that contain social posts like Candy and Get out?
The first time I saw Get out, I liked it. Horror is great because it’s so versatile. You can have monster movies where you just want to be scared, but you can have these kinds of movies as well. I think there is room for everything in this genre.
Whether we’re talking about a monster movie or a movie with a message, is there one element that a horror movie has to be good?
I love stories where you’re really invested in the characters and you’re scared for them. If I’m not connected to the characters, I don’t care if they’re taken by a creature or if a ghost is haunting them. Character is so important. Then you build the scares around it. One of my favorite movies is A quiet place because I was invested in the family. It makes him a lot scarier.
What is your first memory as a child watching horror movies?
Growing up my parents loved movies and they watched everything. They let me watch everything too. When I was 4 years old, I saw Jaws. I liked the feeling of being afraid. I didn’t even want to go to our local pool anymore. I was sort of obsessed with this feeling.
Is Latin folklore something that you also remember as a child?
Yes, we grew up with legends and scary stories like La Llorona and El Cucuy at a very young age. Horror is in our blood. We were surrounded by these scary legends when we were children. It also attributed to my love for horror, supernatural and magical realism. It was part of my culture.
Do you think a change has happened in Hollywood and that studios are now more interested in telling Latin American stories?
I think [studios] are starting to see that we are such a big audience. We introduce ourselves to horror movies and superhero movies. There has been a change where they look for our films – but also have us in front of and behind the camera. I saw the change just from having meetings with the studios. The word everyone uses is “genuine”.
Give me some advice on how to convince my wife to let our 5 and 10 year old kids watch more spooky movies. i showed them Gremlins, but that’s as far as she’ll let me go.
(Laughs.) This is the same argument I have with my sister, whose children are 6 and 12 years old. I say, “Look, I saw horror movies at a very young age, and that really shaped me. So maybe you can get your wife on board if you tell her it will feed their imaginations.
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