HBO Maxs Los Espookys, a mainly Spanish-language, comedy-horror series, focuses on a group of friends obsessed with horror who strive to make a living from their passion. The series is charmingly weird and creepy, delivering a unique show that is ultimately about friendship.
Renaldo (Bernardo Velasco) is a gore and horror enthusiast who starts a unique business with his friends after creating a dark-themed quinceañera. They discover a market for hosting custom horror events for a specific clientele, calling themselves Los Espookys. They soon become specialists in staging any horror scene imaginable, from a possessed girl who floats over her bed to a sea monster in a small town, which is all brought to life by pulleys, makeup and prosthetics. This series is also a great form of representation as it follows a group of queer Latinx friends in a town in South America as they try to run their business.
The first thing audiences will notice about this series is its balancing of surreal comedy with the mundanity of everyday life. In doing so, it delivers just the right amount of quirkiness without getting overwhelming, like other shows such as Wellington Paranormal and What We Do in the Shadows. The prosthetics and synthetic gore, while at times looking fake, add an air of charm to the series as they dress up as aliens, sea monsters, etc. In comparison, the team also pulls off some impressive stunts that defy explanation, such as having a man be eaten by a bed and fall from the ceiling.
Apart from these terrifying constructions, what also stands out are the characters. Renaldo’s best friend, Andrés, is a blue-haired heir to a chocolate empire but has an existential crisis surrounding his adoption. Úrsula is a dentist’s assistant but also the brains of the operation and makes impressive prosthetics, delivering lines with a skilled deadpanned expression. Then there is Tati, the endearing and naive airhead that dons the monster costumes. She is Úrsula’s sister and often takes on the strangest part-time jobs, from breaking-in new shoes to acting as a human fan.
While putting in the work, this group also has to deal with the expectations and responsibilities that come with everyday life. There is the matter of making their business profitable amidst family expectations. Andrés’ family, for one, wants him to stop doing spooky things and focus on his role as the heir to a chocolate empire. Each one has something preventing them from getting involved, but they understand that if they want to pursue their dreams, they’ll need to make certain choices for their passion.
The show also features Carol Kane as Bianca Nova, known for her roles in The Princess Bride and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidtand Saturday Night Live veteran Fred Armisen as Uncle Tico, recently appearing in The Bubble. Armisen delivers his signature comedy as Tico, Renaldo’s endearing uncle, who lives and works in LA as a valet driver that genuinely loves to drive and park cars. Kane also does an excellent job of bringing the unhinged and eccentric Bianca Nova to life, the horror movie director who hears about Renaldo and his group from Tico.
Underneath the staged scenes and eccentric characters, there is also a hint of magical realism. Andrés is apparently possessed by a water demon who knows the secrets of his past that she will only share with him after he watches The King’s Speech. Tati reveals that the reason why she is scatterbrained is that she is experiencing the past, present and future all at the same time. Then there is the anchor of a local supernatural show, who doesn’t seem to know who she is and questions her existence when the camera is off.
From this, the series creates an air of mystery and magic that causes audiences to question what is real while making it seem like this strangeness is part of everyday life. When it comes down to it, Los Espookys can be utterly ridiculous in the best way while being strangely introspective about choices people make in life when it comes to pursuing happiness.
Season 1 of Los Espookys is available to stream on HBO Max. Season 2 premieres Sept. 16.