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‘Haunted: Latin America’ Review: A Mediocre Attempt at Latin Horror

3 Stars

"Haunted: Latin America."
"Haunted: Latin America." By Courtesy of Netflix
By Alfonso J. Godinez Aguilar, Contributing Writer

“Haunted: Latin America” follows in the footsteps of its North American counterpart “Haunted" in depicting real people sharing their true stories of haunted houses, possession, and other paranormal activities. The series’ high production value makes it a worthwhile stream for any horror or paranormal junkie, but the show is not without its shortcomings. While the first edition — as well as the first episode of the second — of the series was filled with stunning dramatizations, heart-tugging moments, and edge-of-your-seat horror, the show’s later episodes fail to live up to the expectations set by previous installments.

The series may disappoint some viewers from the start, because while it could have taken advantage of the many culturally specific Latin American horror stories, “Haunted: Latin America” instead merely retells horror stories in Spanish that could have been set anywhere but Latin America. Additionally, the series’ five episodes fail to live up to the show’s name, as it only covers two countries — Mexico and Colombia — out of the many found in Latin America.

“Haunted: Latin America” follows a similar narration style to that of the original series, where witnesses recount first-hand stories in a room surrounded by friends and family. The show most effectively uses this style to complement a story’s believability in the season’s first and arguably strongest episode, “The House of the Damned,” in which a mother recounts the story of a sinister presence in a house she had just moved into with her sons. This episode showcases the best of what the series has to offer, from both a narrative and production point of view. In the shots of the real-life testimony, audiences see the authentic emotion coming from the mother and her family, evoking the same feelings among its viewers. The reenactments are stylized with dark and gloomy color grading, action-packed shots, and the perfect amount of special effects which ultimately combine to create a beautifully produced episode that feels both believable and very scary — setting the bar high for the rest of the season.

Unfortunately, the next episodes suffer from having to follow this fierce opening. The season’s unoriginal second episode, “The Cursed Doll,” follows the tried and true, “Annabelle”-esque haunted doll trope. While the episode is definitely creepy, its fear factor pales in comparison to the prior episode. The third episode, “The Woman from El Molino” (which seems to be loosely based on the Latin American legend of La Llorona), is unfortunately no better. What’s most disappointing is the episode’s narrative, as the testimony leaves far too many unanswered questions to be enjoyable or satisfying. Thankfully, the underwhelming narratives of the second and third episodes are salvaged by the show’s high production value. The show’s immersive and impressive visuals at least somewhat make up for the storytelling’s failures.

“Haunted” was able to redeem itself with the season’s fourth episode, “Something’s Knocking at the Door,” which is another high point in the season. The storyline feels authentic and pairs well with reenactments. Unlike the first episode, though, where all the people who were part of the real-life testimony seem emotionally tied to the story, the testimony in “Something’s Knocking at the Door” has many participants who appear bored out of their minds. The show’s fifth episode, “The Devil Dances before Easter,” is nearly ruined by subpar special effects and CGI on top of an already so-so narrative. For anyone who can speak Spanish, this episode is best enjoyed like a podcast, as the visuals only cut detract from any storytelling strength the episode has to offer. With such a strong start to “Haunted: Latin America,” it’s disappointing to see it end with an even more mediocre episode than what’s found throughout the rest of the season.

Although the series does have its weaknesses, and at points feels almost like a glorified Spanish creepypasta, the full first season of “Haunted: Latin America” is still worth the three-hour binge-watch. While viewers may not be scared out of their minds at any point, the series is still creepy enough to deliver an enjoyable, chilling experience.

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