By Justina Bonilla
Gigi Saul Guerrero is making a name for herself as director and writer in horror, breaking new ground.
Saul Guerrero, originally from Mexico City, Mexico, immigrated to Canada where she earned a B.A. at Capilano University in Motion Picture Production. She co-founded the independent production company, Luchagore. Since launching Luchagore, she has directed and co-written several shorts, including El Gigante and the Crypt TV shorts, A Luchagore Christmas, and Mistress of Bones. She has also directed for Blumhouse Television, most notably, the episode Culture Shock for the Into the Dark series and the upcoming film Bingo.
In our exclusive interview with Saul Guerrero, she shares her creative influences, her path to her directorial career, current projects, and future hopes for her career.
Justina Bonilla: What filmmakers and films have influenced you and your style?
Gigi Saul Guerrero: It really did start with Children of Men. When I looked more into [Alfonso Cuaron, the director of Children of Men], I saw that he was part of the “Three Amigos.” Form there I discovered Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu and Guillermo Del Toro.
It really was a mix of those three guys. Everything that these guys were making, they were not afraid to just go over the boundaries, in showing really raw and gritty, but human stories. It has the love of monsters that Guillermo would be that were so human and so real. And then, it had Iñárritu’s grittiness and brutality, like he brought in Amores Perros. These guys are not afraid to speak our language.
Because of [them] I found out about [Robert] Rodriguez, who’s total Tex-Mex style, and I really related to [it]. I couldn’t really figure myself here out in Canada. I wanted to fit in. I wanted to adapt quickly. I wanted to learn English right away. I was trying so hard to be something. But I realized that it’s okay to be two different things. It’s okay to have your past culture and bring it to a new one. And Rodriguez would do that [with] his crazy movies, with El Mariachi, Machete, Planet Terror. He always had those hints of Mexicano style, and I thought that was so neat.
From there, I just got deep into the horror world, because of Rob Zombie with The Devil’s Rejects. I had never seen a movie so dirty. I had never seen a movie so raw and to the point where you could smell what was on the screen.
JB: Speaking of the horror genre, what are your favorite sub genres?
GSG: I’ve gone through phases. Suddenly I’m all about slashers. Suddenly I’m all about cult classics, and 80s horror, or trash horror. I go through it all. At the end of the day, I guess what really changed my mind that the subgenre doesn’t really matter, is because of Jordan Peele’s work. I never thought I would gravitate so much towards socially elevated horror like that, since Get Out.
JB: What inspired you to create your production company Luchagore?
GSG: It really all started with my best friend, who is my cinematographer in all of the stuff I’ve directed, Luke Bramley. Luke and I were the only horror freaks in our school. All of our homework was based on horror.
For one of our bigger projects, not having enough people in our crew, we became the troublemakers of the school, [because] we were bringing students in from the rival [Vancouver] film school, into our project. One of the crew members from the other school, Raynor Shima [Luchagore producer], was obsessed [with horror].
We realized, “Well, no one wants to work on [horror projects] but us three. Let’s make a bunch of videos [together].” Self-funded, just no budget. [With] the tiniest DLSR camera. Just making viral videos. Making cool content.
JB: Why do you think Mexican culture works so well with horror?
GSG: At the end of the day, I think [Mexican] culture is so rich and historic. We’re [also] very spiritual people. We celebrate death. We are not afraid of it. We cherish it. We embrace it. And we just see all these dark stories, legends, traditions, we see them in a different light.
JB: How did you become involved with Crypt TV?
GSG: I was still in film school when we met in L.A. Very Kindly, my work [El Gigante] was shown to Eli Roth, who co-founded Crypt TV. And Eli [noted], “Your work is really cool. Luchagore is super cool. We’re starting a new [project] Crypt TV, let me connect you.” We were one of the first [filmmakers] to work with them.
Since then, we’ve grown up together. So, it’s nice that after a few years of doing our own things, we came back together [last] year to make something together, Mistress of Bones.
JB: What inspired Mistress of Bones to focus on Aztec culture?
GSG: Aztec mythology has a lot of layers. A lot to say.
It was a mix of [wanting] a Latina hero. And our writer Shane McKenzie [asking], “What about the background of how Day of the Dead started, [emphasizing] the goddess Mictecacihuatl?” Mistress of Bones is a perfect opportunity to bring the mythology to light. But, the dark mythology, the underworld stuff that we don’t talk about very often.
JB: Would you like to see Mistress of Bones become a series on Crypt TV?
GSG: I would hope so. That’s Luchagore’s next goal. We wanted to make Mistress of Bones not just a standalone short, full of action and a new heroine. It was a cool challenge to be like, “How can we shoot this that it still makes sense on its own? But you can see that there’s a lot going on that we’re not showing.” Hopefully, Crypt TV and Luchagore can make it a bigger thing.
JB: What lead you to direct projects at Blumhouse Television?
GSG: I love Blumhouse, who are the pillar of the horror community. They want to tell new [and] fresh stories. Blumhouse had seen El Gigante and a few of my shorts. So, they gave me a chance of Culture Shock. And Culture Shock really blew up in the best way possible. It spoke a lot about a very important issue, with the border crisis, and what’s going on, unfortunately. The movie still stands at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes for a reason. Blumhouse and I really wanted to tell a very important message. It’s very cool that Blumhouse is taking a chance again on Luchagore [with Bingo].
JB: What are you most excited about for your upcoming Blumhouse Television series film Bingo?
GSG: I can’t wait to share this film with the world. So proud of what we were able to achieve during the pandemic. Filmmaking is a lot harder now, but we followed safety protocols and gave it our best every single day during the making of this film. [I’m] incredibly excited to share a unique story where audiences are going to connect with new heroes. Plus, heroes we haven’t seen kick-ass in a genre film before!! These seniors fight back for their beloved bingo hall and it makes my heart swell of joy!