Pop Culture

Indie Horror Film ‘Lechuza’ Brings Mexican Folklore to Life

A dark figure with an owl-like face looks over their shoulder at the viewer in the woods.

Writer and director Miguel Martinez has launched a Kickstarter campaign to bring a new horror film to life: Lechuza, a story about a young woman who tries to bring her mother back from the dead, and is met with horrific consequences.

According to the film’s synopsis on its Kickstarter page, Lechuza is a film “that uses the horror genre for a complex study of familial ties and how we cope with the loss of a matriarch in the Mexican culture.” Martinez is hoping to raise $10,000 for a short version of the film, which will serve as a proof-of-concept that the filmmakers can take to film festivals. They hope to then secure funding for a feature-length film.

We spoke to Martinez about his vision for Lechuza. “It started as a version of The Craft,” he says. “I really wanted to do a story about sisters. And then, when I realized the actresses that I wanted to cast were Latinas, I realized that [what they’re doing] is brujeria, not witchcraft. This is something that I’m more knowledgable in. I grew up with these customs.”

Martinez settled on the Lechuza, a spirit in Mexican folklore with the face of an owl, as the focal point for the film. “When I was really young, my dad would tell me stories about when he lived on a ranch. He would hear noises, and he would see a giant owl. When he got closer, he realized it had wrinkles. And then his dad would run outside and shoot it with a shotgun and it would fly away. The stories freaked me out so much that they just kind of stayed in my head.

“There are a lot of legends of the Lechuza, but according to one of them, it punishes you for trying to do magic that you’re not supposed to do. It’s like a warning. And so I thought that was a really good warning to have in the story, as a metaphor.”

The heart of that story will focus on Gaby, the youngest of four sisters, whose grief drives her to use magic to resurrect her mother. “I lost my mother in 2014,” explains Martinez. “And so I got to see how some people reacted better than others. What I wanted to do was put in a lot of what I saw as negative reactions to death. I wanted to put in a lot of denial, and I wanted to put in not dealing with it in a proper way, and not supporting the people around you. I wanted to put that into a character who just wants her mother back.”

Martinez also sees the horror genre as a vehicle for cathartic storytelling. “I’m not interested in shock value,” he says. “I’m more interested in the light at the end of the tunnel.”

The Kickstarter campaign for Lechuza runs until Thursday, March 23.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

(featured image: Miguel Martinez)

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