Movies

San Antonio native Marcella Ochoa penned the screenplay for horror film Madres, now streaming

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Madres premieres on Amazon Prime October 8 as part of Welcome to the Blumhouse. - AMAZON PRIME
  • Amazon Prime
  • Madres premieres on Amazon Prime October 8 as part of Welcome to the Blumhouse.
A horror movie fan since the age of 4, screenwriter and San Antonio native Marcella Ochoa long wanted to write a fright flick featuring Latinos.

Ochoa’s grandparents, aunts and uncles were migrant farmworkers, and she felt connected to their stories. When she started doing more research on the lives of people who did farm work during the 1970s, she came across an article that disturbed her. We’ll spare the details to withhold spoilers, but she knew right away that the story could be the basis for the horror movie she wanted to write.

“I thought the story needed to be told,” Ochoa told the Current during a recent interview. “That was my motivation — to educate an audience who didn’t know it happened. I think horror is a great way to tell these social justice stories.”

Ochoa’s film Madres is one of four features that make up the anthology series Welcome to the Blumhouse. It tells the story of Beto (Tenoch Huerta) and Diana (Ariana Guerra), a young Mexican American couple expecting their first child. They move to a small California town during the 1970s after Beto lands a job managing a farm. However, the community isn’t what Diana expects, and she soon realizes the grim secrets concealed by the town could have dire consequences for the family.

During an interview with the Current, Ochoa, who attended St. George Episcopal and Locke Hill Elementary School as a child, talked about her obsession with the horror genre and what she thinks makes a good horror movie. Madres premieres on Amazon Prime October 8 as part of Welcome to the Blumhouse.

Why was it important to you to write a horror movie with Latino characters?

Being Mexican American, we never get our stories told, especially in the horror genre. That’s something really important to me in everything I do. I want to tell our stories where it’s not stereotypical [and] where we’re the lead characters and the heroes. I want to show our community and change the narrative of how we’re perceived.

What are your thoughts about horror movies that have social messages embedded in them like Candyman and Get Out?

The first time I saw Get Out, I loved it. Horror is great because it’s so versatile. You can have monster movies where you just want to be scared, but you can also have these kinds of films. I think there’s room for everything within this genre.

Whether we’re talking about a monster movie or a movie with a message, is there an element a horror movie needs to be good?

I love stories where you’re really invested in the characters and you’re scared for them. If I’m not connected to the characters, I don’t really care if they are taken by a creature or if a ghost is haunting them. Character is so important. Then, you build the scares around it. One of my favorite movies is A Quiet Place because I was invested in the family. It makes it much scarier.

What is your earliest memory as a kid watching horror movies?

Growing up, my parents loved movies, and they watched everything. They would let me watch everything, too. When I was 4 years old I saw Jaws. I loved that feeling of being scared. I didn’t even want to go to our local swimming pool anymore. I was sort of obsessed with that feeling.

Was Latino folklore something you remember as a kid, too?

Yes, we grew up with legends and scary stories like La Llorona and El Cucuy at a very young age. Horror is in our blood. We’re surrounded by these creepy legends as kids. That also attributed to my love for horror, the supernatural and magical realism. It was part of my culture.

Do you think a shift has happened in Hollywood and studios are now more interested in telling Latino stories?

I think [studios] are starting to see that we’re such a huge audience. We show up to horror movies and superhero movies. There has been a shift where they’re seeking out our films — but also having us in front of and behind the camera. I have seen the shift just from having meetings with the studios. The word that everyone is using is “authentic.”

Give me some advice on how to talk my wife into letting our 5-year-old and 10-year-old watch more scary movies. I’ve showed them Gremlins, but that’s as far as she’ll let me go.

(Laughs.) It’s the same argument I have with my sister, whose kids are 6 and 12. I say, “Look, I saw horror movies at a really young age, and it really shaped me.” So, maybe you can get your wife on board if you tell her that it will feed their imagination.

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