MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
This is, of course, Halloween, and we're going to wrap up tonight with some tricks and treats for you. We begin in the dark spaces where many of us get our fright on - the movies. You might've guessed that October is the biggest month of the year for scary films. But what you might not know is that increasingly, studious are counting on one part of the audience to scare up profits from these movies. NPR's Vanessa Rancano tells us more.
VANESSA RANCANO, BYLINE: It's Saturday night in Silver Spring, Md., and the Torres brothers are at the movies. Twenty-two-year-old Jose says he knows what he likes.
JOSE TORRES: Anything that is paranormal has, like, a fear factor into it. I would watch it.
RANCANO: He and 17-year-old Anthony are here to see Guillermo Del Toro's new movie "Crimson Peak."
ANTHONY TORRES: I want to see how it feels, you know, when your heart goes ahhhh, you know, boom, boom, boom, boom.
RANCANO: Latinos like the Torres brothers are big moviegoers, 22 percent of audiences on any given weekend. But when it comes to horror, that proportion jumps to as much as half the box office. Edwin Pagan runs a website for Latino horror fans.
EDWIN PAGAN: Traditionally, we have always loved ghost stories and the macabre and Gothic tales. And they're just sewn into the fabric of who we are as a people.
RANCANO: Many Latinos grow up hearing about scary characters like El Cuco, El Chupacabra and La Llorona. a woman scorned by her husband who drowns her children and herself. Her ghost wanders the earth whaling and snatching up children to replace her own. Movie marketer Etienne Hernandez Medina says another layer of culture comes into play.
HERNANDEZ MEDINA: You know, we're born into Catholicism in large part. The duality between good and evil, devil and the God - it's the stuff that we've grown up with.
RANCANO: He relies on that duality to help studios sell their movies to Latinos.
HERNANDEZ MEDINA: I've worked on "Nightmare On Elm Street," "The Omen," "Paranormal Activity," "Final Destination..."
RANCANO: Movies like these draw young audiences and don't require perfect English to understand.
HERNANDEZ MEDINA: You go and see "Paranormal Activity," and you're going to get the bejesus scared out of you. You don't need to follow a very long plot that explains how this all came to be.
RANCANO: Hernandez Medina says Latino audiences can make or break horror movies in this country, and film execs know it. Still webmaster Pagan says scary movies aren't immune to Hollywood's diversity problem.
PAGAN: You know, we show up the same way. It's usually, you know, some sort of background character, some friend of one of the main characters who ultimately is one of the first to die.
RANCANO: Despite that, some of the hottest names in horror are Latinos. The man who created movie zombies - think "Night Of The Living Dead" - is George Romero. Robert Rodriguez delivers campy gore. Guillermo Del Toro's "Crimson Peak" opened fourth in the country its first weekend in theaters.
PAGAN: There's no doubt that when we're given the opportunity, we can shine because the stories are there. We just have to tell them.
RANCANO: And keep all kinds of moviegoers squirming in their seats. Vanessa Rancano, NPR News.
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