‘Diablero’ Kicks Off With Strong Concept And Solid Promises – Spoiler Free Review
Deciding what original programming to add to the Netflix queue can prove to be tedious when pulling from the expansive library. However, one new original December release stands out from them all. Fans of horror and campiness are in luck as Diablero is looking to serve some fun dark thrills. Thanks to Netflix for giving us the first two episodes of the series, we truly wish we had gotten more!
Netflix’s new Spanish-language horror series is based on Mexican author Francisco Haghenbeck’s novel, El Diablo Me Obligo. The series focuses on the exploits of demon hunters and is akin to hits such as Supernatural and Ash Vs. Evil Dead. The show could have fallen for the trap of borrowing heavily from those shows, but thankfully, Diablero sets its own path by highlighting Mexican culture with a few twists. The first two episodes are a solid entry to this new series and you may be in for one hell of a binge.
Often with long formed series on streaming services, it can take a while to get the story rolling. Diablero’s first episode manages to introduce and get the premise going into interesting territory at an impressive pace. Horacio Garcia Rojas (Narcos: Mexico) leads the show as Elvis Infante- one of the many demon hunters or “diableros” for hire in Mexico. He boasts experience, style, and some hubris on his sleeves, as he collects demons for a living. In this world, demons and the supernatural are not as disbelieved. Even though still ridiculed by some of the population, Mexico has its own underworld of crime and exploitations dealing with the supernatural. Demons invisible to the common eye can be contained in ghastly forms and sold for personal use. The first two episodes only tease what some humans’ sick uses for evil spirits can be. Infante collects and sells them just to make a simple living. If living off a talent one is specifically good at is not relatable, then who knows what is?
The lead diablero may have great screen presence and charm, but no show can last without an equally engaging cast. The first two episodes set the viewer up with the rest of the unconventional, yet endearing cast. Rojas may play the title character, but Christopher Von Uckermann (How to Get Over a Breakup) kicks off the narrative as Ramiro Ventura- a young, esteemed, and yet somehow broken Catholic priest. Upon receiving a promotion in the church, he learns of his fatherhood by an ex forbidden lover. What makes things worse is that this young daughter he just learned about has been kidnapped by a demon. When the police turn him away- this becomes a job for Infante. The duo of a broken priest and demon hunter makes for great chemistry. The majority of their engaging relationship comes from them being both played by young and upcoming talent. Rojas and Uckermann make their roles sympathetic and believable in this bizarre world.
Fatima Molina and Giselle Kuri (both previously seen on the hit novella Lady Altagracia) balance the playing field as the two female leads. Molina plays Infante’s sister who is just as knowledgeable in the occult and just as ecstatic in fighting evil. Kuri plays the most unique role in the entire series- Nancy Gama. Gama has lived most of her young life being possessed by countless demons. She has the rare power of being able to conjure and expel demons from herself. In a weird way, she can be seen as a mystical superhero; stronger and more entangled with evil than the rest of the cast. She would have not have learned to control her powers without guidance from Infante. This is what gives him an edge over other diableros- two strong charismatic females who often literally know the ins and outs of demons. The show’s premise may already be unique enough, but the main cast is what sets the series apart from other supernatural and horror-focused shows.
Produced by Spain’s Morena Films, Diablero was totally shot in Mexico. Any show anchored in a wild premise will often have limitations. Some of the CGI for the demons is often shaky and very few stunts come off as noticeably fake. However, it is very clear that Morena’s production always had a vision for working around these limitations. Practical effects, stunts, and sets are utilized in the best ways possible. Different variations of monstrous makeup are used, with CGI being put to overall minimal use. The practice of stunts varying at different extremes can also be greatly appreciated when watching at home. Puppetry is also an awesome effect that hopefully comes back in later episodes. The fact that these qualities had some time to shine along an intriguing narrative with multiple characters in just two forty minute episodes is a feat.
Highlighting the Mexican culture and lifestyle with characters who surround themselves around beings from hell is definitely a unique choice. Though many will find that the show does not do this in vain. Diablero wears campiness on its sleeve when necessary. Not overtly silly or untamed, but instead only sprinkled with shameless goofy laughs. With this balance of levity comes a unique and serviceable representation of a fictional demon infested Mexico. To non-Mexican viewers, they still get a glimpse of the everyday Mexican lifestyle mixed with supernatural fun. To Mexican viewers, they see a known setting with an exciting twist. Watching Diablero will make one wonder why this combination has not yet been done before. Mexican culture is so full of otherworldly folklore leaves the door open for many possibilities. Even though based on a novel, with this cast multiple seasons may be worth watching.
For now, all one can hope is that the rest of the season services the solid promises given. Plenty of more spicy drama was purposefully left out for one’s first viewing pleasure. Streaming numbers mean everything to Netflix, so the more views for an all Latin supernatural series means everything.
The first season of Diablero begins streaming on Netflix on December 21.