‘Los Espookys’ revels in strangeness
Gina Twardosz | Monday, November 4, 2019
October’s over and, while some of your friends might have already started playing Christmas music, if you’re like me, you might still be looking to watch one last strange and creepy show to close out spooky szn.
Undeniably, one of the most recent comedy series to completely hit the mark while still being creative and fresh is HBO’s “Los Espookys.” The six-episode bilingual comedy series, which premiered on HBO in June, follows the utterly weird and delightfully jarring adventures of four best friends who decide to create a horror staging business. Complete with the eerie quirkiness of “Twin Peaks” and the thoughtfulness of “The Good Place,” “Los Espookys” is the perfect show to add to your fall binge-watching queue.
Produced by “Portlandia” star and “Saturday Night Live” alum Fred Armisen with “Saturday Night Live” creator Loren Micheals, the show is just as alternative and outlandish as one would expect. Yet, thanks to writers Julio Torres and Ana Fabrega (who also star in the show), “Los Espookys” becomes a sort of love letter to the campy magic and neon red, gory bliss of Dario Argento’s technicolor ‘80s horror films.
“Los Espookys” delights in the absurdity of seriousness. It balks at elevated horror while still managing to be sharply hilarious and quick witted. It also carries the energy and faux melodrama of a Latin American telenovela.
Set in an undefined Latin American country, the show’s cast is majority Latinx. Yet, the series itself does not create a spectacle out of the diversity of its cast; rather, the narrative tension occurs organically, created from the misadventures that the quartet accrue as they try to pursue their unconventional artistic passions, as it would be for a similar sitcom with a majority white cast.
This is not to say, of course, that race is simply excluded from the series, as “Los Espookys” makes a point of broadcasting in Spanish with English subtitles — a bold move that could have ostracized many American viewers. Every choice is intentional, but the show is done in a way that attempts to normalize bilingual television and a majority Latinx cast.
If anything, “Los Espookys” seems more literary than cinematic. The series is infused with Gothic undertones ripped straight from a novel, with the characters themselves seemingly anachronistic for the twentieth century. There’s Andres, played perfectly by “Saturday Night Live” writer Julio Torres, as the prince-like adopted heir to his parents’ chocolate empire. Also, there is a pair of weird sisters, Ursula and Tati, played by Cassandra Ciangherotti and Ana Fabrega, respectively, who foil each other with an oddness that is both tender and complex. Ursula is the mechanical mastermind behind the team’s best stunts and Tati, who is a little naive and often misunderstood (and often the one in the monster costume), brings an added warmth and hilarity to the melodrama of the team’s work.
Renaldo, played by Bernardo Velasco, is passionate about horror and cares about his craft so much he becomes the driving force behind forming the Los Espookys business of horror staging. His challenge to find fulfillment in his art while still appeasing his mother and pursuing an adult career is something that’s incredibly relatable, but not overdone. From staging an exorcism to run a priest out of a convent to pretending a sea monster exists to bring more tourism to a seaside town, the Los Espookys bring an exciting, whimsical strangeness with them wherever they go.
While a quick witted show broadcast in Spanish with English subtitles might not be for everyone, there is no denying that “Los Espookys” is the first of its kind. A comedic series that manages to be funky, heartfelt and spooky is definitely something worth watching.