For decades, generations of young kids across Latin America have heard of el Cucuy, their answer to the Boogeyman. A malevolent beast, he looks for misbehaving children to take to his horrifying lair to devour them as punishment. While the character’s legacy has survived for centuries, there’s never been a major movie or fictional series based on it, until the movie Cucuy: The Boogeyman, seeing its release this Saturday on the Syfy Channel, as part of its 31 Days of Halloween programming.
Cucuy brings to life the folk tale that has kept thousands of kids up at night, and made them respect their parents for fear of being abducted and eaten. The film opens with a young boy being warned by his abuelita about the demon, and her world-weary wisdom spooks him enough to believe her. But his older brother Javi’s disbelief and miscreant ways stir the monster to snatch him up rather viciously and he vanishes without a trace.
In the same town, teenage girl Sofia (Jearnest Corchado) comes to the aid of her younger, deaf sister Amelia (Bella Stine) from being harassed by the older boys at school. In the midst of the altercation, she accidentally assaults a police officer trying to break them up. With the help of her uncle in the police department (Brian Krause, a.k.a. Leo from Charmed!), her sentence is shortened to six months probation and house arrest, being fitted with a ankle bracelet to track her movements.
Across town, other youths up to no good are scooped up by the mythical beast, including Amelia’s main school bullies George and Sierra. Sofia starts to understand the connection between the disappearances, and despite her limited mobility to leave investigates the truth behind the Cucuy’s existence.
Lead actress Corchado is excellent at playing the brave and tenacious Sofia, whose concern for those around her and her intrepidity make her a worthy heroine. I really hope Corchado can find her way and make it as a Scream Queen in future sci-fi and horror films.
While the actual Cucuy monster could have been more ethereal and frightening instead of a static figure in a cloak, I respect the deep research and development that director Peter Sullivan put into designing the creature. And while I enjoy the horror of a Grimm’s fairy tale-esque story, I wish the film depended less on atmosphere, cliches and a tidy climax to make it work.
Still, it’s a hoot to see my cultura on display on the SyFy channel, since it’s cadre of schlocky creature features with formulaic storylines and modest budgets are what I’ve personally grown up on watching with my own family. For a low-key October afternoon, Cucuy is a fine watch to get into the spooky mood of Halloween, especially among your fellow Cucuy-fearing brood. But as a horror and sci-fi aficionado and a Mexican, I wish it went farther in its pursuit of scares. But that won’t stop me from watching it this Saturday during its premiere, if nothing else but to hear a Latina actress say, “See you on the other side, pendejo!” on an American television network.
Check local listings for showtimes.
Aimee Murillo is calendar editor and frequently covers film, arts, and Latino culture, and previously contributed to the OCW’s long-running fashion column, Trendzilla. Raised in Santa Ana, she loves weird movies, raising her plants, antiquing, and smoking weed on a rainy night. This bio might be copied/pasted from her Bumble bio.