‘Madres’ Review: The Latin American horror film with Texan roots takes a real-world look for a story that turns into an investigative thriller

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October 14, 2021

For the feature film debut “Madres” by director Ryan Zaragoza, the El Paso native dealt with a social issue that preoccupied Mexican-American women in the 1970s. The plot sounds like warped science fiction, but the subtitle at the end of the supernatural thriller suggests that it is based on actual events. The film was written by San Antonio-born Marcella Ochoa, who was inspired by her grandparents’ experiences as migrant agricultural workers.

Another connection to the Lone Star State is lead actress Ariana Guerra, who grew up in a border town near McAllen before attending the University of Texas. She plays Diana, a Mexican-American writer who is pregnant with her first child and whose immigrant husband Beto (Tenoch Huerta from “The Forever Purge”) just got a job in Golden Valley, California, as a migrant worker overseer on a farm .

Considering that Beto has only been in the US for five years, he couldn’t miss this offer and it includes free room and board for his family in the form of a two-story house. Sure, it’s old and creepy with peeling wallpaper (the perfect setting for a haunted house), but as he explains to Diana, “Don’t look in the mouth of a free horse.” She corrects him, “gift horse”. English is Beto’s second language unlike Diana, who was born in the States and speaks little Spanish.

The couple’s cultural difference plays an important role in the film. Diana is treated differently by the other Latinas because she is not fluent in their language, and she does not believe in traditional Mexican folklore, which includes the help of a local curandera named Anita, played by Elpidia Carrillo. For your information, Carrillo played the young guerrilla fighter Anna in “Predator” in 1987, who warned Arnold Schwarzenegger and his men about their opponent: “It changed colors, like the chameleon, it uses the jungle.” There is also a scene in the film where Beto performs a traditional egg healing on Diana. Anyone who is Hispanic who grew up in South Texas is likely familiar with the technique. My grandmother did it on me several times during my youth.

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