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12 of the best Spanish horror films to terrify you this Halloween

Looking for something to give you goosebumps this Halloween? The Local looks at the best Spanish films that are sure to have you cowering beneath the covers.

best spanish horror films
Pan's Labyrinth, set in Spain but directed by Mexican Guillermo del Toro, is one of the most internationally aclaimed Spanish films of all time.

1. Pan’s Labyrinth (El laberinto del fauno)

best spanish horror films

All at once enchanting, disturbing and hauntingly beautiful, this dark fantasy film by Mexican director Guillermo del Toro takes place during an equally dark time: Francoist Spain in 1944. A young girl escapes from her grim reality by following a mythical faun. 

2. [REC] 

best spanish horror films
 
If this Spanish film seems a bit familiar, that’s because it’s the eerie inspiration of the US film Quarantine. Using the “shaky camera” technique beloved by films like The Blair Witch Project, this movie tells the tale of a TV reporter and cameraman as they follow emergency workers to record a terrifying night of news footage. There has since been Rec 2, 3 and 4, none of which were as widely acclaimed.
 
3. Julia’s Eyes (Los ojos de Julia)
 
best spanish horror films
 
Another work by Del Toro, this film is about a woman who starts to lose her vision while trying to get to the bottom of the suspicious suicide of her twin sister.
 
4. The Devil’s Backbone (El Espinazo del Diablo)
 
best spanish horror films
 
This Del Toro film is supposed to be the “spiritual” predecessor of Pan’s Labyrinth. During the Spanish Civil War, a boy discovers that the orphanage where he lives is haunted by something ominous. 
 
5. The Others (Los Otros)
 
best spanish horror films
 
This Spanish-American film by Alejandro Amenábar is a ghost story unlike any other. After the end of the Second World War, a mother, played by Nicole Kidman, and her children start to witness ghostly encounters in their family home.
 
6. The Day of the Beast (El Dia de la Bestia)
 
best spanish horror films
 
More on the lighter side of things, this dark comedy follows a Catholic priest determined to commit as many sins as possible so that he may sell his soul and then kill the Antichrist as soon as it is born.
 
7. Thesis (Tesis)
 
best spanish horror films
 
Another Amenába film, Thesis depicts a young woman writing a thesis about violence. When she finds a video of a girl being tortured to death, she discovers the tape’s origin is much closer to her than she thinks.
 
8. The Orphanage (El Orfanato)
 
best spanish horror films
 
This movie by first-time Spanish director J.A Bayona, also set in an orphanage, takes haunted house films to another, disturbing level. A woman buys the old orphanage where she spent her childhood. But when her adopted son goes missing, she finds that the home has dark secrets around every corner.
 
 
9. Sleep Tight (Mientras duermes)
 
best spanish horror films
 
This 2011 psychological thriller directed by Jaume Balagueró will have you hiding behind the sofa. Apartment concierge Cesar (Luis Tosar) believes he was born without the ability to be happy. As a result, he decides his mission is to make life hell for everyone around him and goes to creepy extremes to bring down Clara (Marta Etura), a tenant in the building.  

10: Tombs of the blind dead (La noche del terror ciego) 

best spanish horror films

Tombs of the Blind Dead, 1971, written and directed by Amando de Ossorio is the first in the iconic Blind Dead series. Its success helped kickstart the Spanish horror film boom of the early Seventies.
 
11. Darkness
 
best spanish horror films
 
Another creepy classic from Jaume Balagueró, this 2002 horror about a family moving into a haunted house will have you hiding behind the sofa. Just don’t watch it when you are home alone.
 
12. The skin I live In
 
best spanish horror films
 
What list about Spanish films would be complete without something from Pedro Almodovar? A rare foray in the horror genre, this 2011 film starring Antonio Banderas as a plastic surgeon experimenting on a young woman in a bid to develop artificial skin will make your flesh crawl.
 
 

HALLOWEEN

How to celebrate Halloween in Spain (a festival invented in Galicia)

The Halloween holiday is celebrated across Spain not least because it involves a national bank holiday tagged onto a weekend which is known as a puente and ensures that everyone has three days off.

How to celebrate Halloween in Spain (a festival invented in Galicia)
Photo: AFP

But of course this is Spain which means that things are done their own way, so don’t expect carved pumpkins and trick or treating to done in the same way as it is in America.

Three day celebration

 All Saints Day falls on a Sunday this year which means technically there is no reason to give anyone a day off to get back to their village and visit their departed loved-ones. But this is Spain and everyone loves a puente so a bank holiday has been added on Monday, just so people can have a three day weekend.

However, because of covid-19 restrictions, much of Spain has closed regional borders or imposed perimeter lockdowns to stop the movement of people in a bid to curb the spread of infection.

Photo: AFP

 

Dressing up

Children are expected to dress up in spooky costumes for their last day of school before the Halloween long weekend, oh and the teachers too, and things generally focus on the creepy. Think witches, zombies and devils rather than superheroes, TV stars and literary favourites.

In normal years, some towns stage community trick or treating events inviting children in dress-up to visit a circuit of shops where they will be given candy and treats culminating in a costume party in a local square, but this won't  be happening this year.

And there won't be the usual Halloween themed events in pubs, clubs and restaurants. Remember groups are now limited to six people maximum and there's a nationwide curfew in place.

However there's no reason you won't see an organised zombie march taking place in a plaza near you – as long as they are socially distanced!


Photo: AFP

 

READ ALSO: 

 

Galicia: The birthplace of Halloween

In Galicia, the northwestern region famous for its rich Gaelic folklore and ghost legends, Halloween is a seriously big deal. In fact, some argue that it was invented here.

Known as Samaín the ancient autumn festival celebrated in Galicia was a precursor of America's Halloween.

In Galician villages such as Cedeira, O Vicedo and Narón, kids and adults have for centuries dressed up as spirits and magical beings, organised death marches, carved scary faces in pumpkins and gone trick or treating, all activities that will be curtailed this year.

It starts on October 31st with the Noite dos Calacús (Night of the Pumpkins) involving as pumpkin carving, costume parties, bonfires, rituals. 

Look out for the queimada – a  hot punch made from orujo mixed with herbs, sugar, lemon peel, apple and coffee beans. It is brewed in a special clay pot and stirred with a ladle while incantations banishing evil are chanted over it as it burns with a blue flame.

Photo: AFP

Catalonia, chestnuts and witches

Across Catalonia, towns usually stage the traditional Castanyada – the traditions of which date back hundreds of years and involve a funereal feast of vegetables, nuts, chestnuts and sweet bread rolls. 

But all these events are cancelled this year. 

However, there is no reason why you can't recreate the festivities with your family or housemates at home. Here's the recipe for the small bread rolls known as panallets.

READ ALSO:  Panellets: How to make the traditional Catalan Halloween treat


Photo: Nadine/Flickr

Halloween is also known in Spain as Dia de las Brujas and you’ll see creepy decorations of witches propped up all over the place.

The small town of Sant Feliu Sasserra near Bages in Catalonia really celebrates the witch cult honouring 23 women sentenced to death for witchcraft during the Inquisition.

All Saints Day


A man tends the grave of a loved on in Almudena cemetery in Madrid. Photo: Lynn Spreadbury/The Local

November 1st is the Día de Todos los Santos when families gather in cemeteries to tend to their loved ones’ graves taking fresh flowers and special pastries.

These include the peculiarly named buñuelos de viento – nun’s farts – which are bite-sized donuts filled wih cream; huesos de santo – bones of the holy – which are finger sized tubes of marzipan; and panellets, nutty pasties.

This year however, authorities are urging people to maintain social distancing and avoid meeting groups of people larger than six. 

Drones will be patrolling the larger cemeteries to make sure people are keeping to the rules.

This year, authorities  have urged citizens to act responsibly given the fact that Spain is now in the grip of the second wave of coronavirus.

“This isn't the year for going to cemeteries nor having Halloween parties, nor going anywhere,” insisted Enrique Lopez, Madrid's regional justice minister. 

HolyWin

It’s not all about ghouls and ghosties.


Suggested outfits from the Bishopric of Cadiz and Ceuta. Photo: Shower of Roses

The Spanish Catholic Church has been fighting back against the popularity of the “satanic festival” of Halloween by urging good Christian children to forgo zombie, ghost and devil outfits and instead dress up as “saints, virgins and apostles”.

Recents years have seen the rise of “Holywins” parties thrown by churches or catholic schools with children dressing up their favourite saint, a monk or nun, or even one of the apostles. But they won't be happening this year either.

“With Holywins, which stands for Holiness Wins, one can avoid the pagan festival and reclaim the meaning of the Catholic feast day of All Saints,” reads a statement from the Diocese of Cartagena.

Stay at home

The good news is that there are no restrictions on staying at home and scaring yourself silly with a horror film on Halloween night.

READ MORE: 12 Spanish horror films to terrify you at Halloween

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