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The Absurdist Imaginings of ‘Los Espookys’

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There was no better way to introduce Los Espookys—the band of horror aficionados at the center of the new HBO series of the same name—than with a spooky quinceañera.

In the show’s first scene, the group’s de facto leader, Renaldo (played by the endlessly charismatic Bernardo Velasco), has recruited his friends, who are skilled as makeup artists and production designers, to help decorate his little sister’s 15th birthday party. Quinceañera festivities are usually marked by pink dresses as full and fluffy as the frosting on a cupcake. But Los Espookys have morphed the celebration into a ghoulish get-together complete with smoke machines, desserts that ooze blood, and a dramatic, raven-colored ball gown fit for an evil Disney queen. The gleeful spectacle of it all underscores the absurdity of a ritual centered on young girls transmogrifying into women before a roomful of guests, and it’s a clever and satirical wink at a fusty tradition.

The quinceañera is so successful that the local priest, Father Francisco, enlists Renaldo and his friends for another event. The offbeat crew includes stony-faced dental hygienist Úrsula (Cassandra Ciangherotti), pixie-like space cadet Tati (Brooklyn-based stand-up comic Ana Fabrega), and sulky, sapphire-haired rich kid Andrés (Saturday Night Live writer Julio Torres), who is heir to a massive chocolate corporation. A clique of Latinx misfits putting on scary events is an enticingly ridiculous premise, in line with the past work of executive producer Fred Armisen, the former SNL regular and co-creator of Portlandia, who created Los Espookys with Torres and Fabrega. Initially, Armisen and his compatriots were looking to land the mostly Spanish-language show on HBO Latino. However, executives at the network picked up the series for their main channel without compromising the language, with English subtitles for viewers who don’t speak Spanish, and Los Espookys premiered this June.

Throughout its six episodes, the series delights in oddball humor with a touch of the supernatural. The story arcs are entertaining in all of their wacky (if occasionally frivolous) bizarreness. However, when the show strikes a deeper vein, it does so with quiet nuance, capturing certain subtleties of Latin American culture, particularly its affection for the morbid, for magical realism, and for all things espooky. While in some instances the show’s interest in horror and surrealism is used to explore deeper cultural anxieties like queer identity and the othering of Latinx people, Los Espookys is as interested in silliness as it is in social commentary. The comedy stems from the wit and precision of the writing as well as the deadpan delivery of nearly every actor on the show.

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