Littered with clichés and plenty of issues, Diablero also has some filmmaking flair that helps to counteract them.
New on Netflix today is the eight-part Spanish-language fantasy-horror series Diablero, dubbed into English for those among us who prefer such things. Filmed in Mexico, the series is based on F.G. Haghenbeck’s book El diablo me obligo (The Devil Forced Me), while Spain’s Morena Films produced the series with creators and directors J.M. Cravioto and Rigoberto Castaneda.
If any of that meant something to you, congratulations – you’re probably in the target demographic for Diablero, which concerns a missing girl, a priest, a demon hunter, and a slew of genre clichés plucked from both the fantasy and horror playbooks, all brought to life with a budget that has clearly been splurged in one or two places and not evenly distributed.
In some sense you’ve seen it all before (Netflix has no shortage of international horror), but perhaps not quite in this composition. It’s probably worth seeing again, but Diablero would be a better show if it knew exactly what kind of show it wanted to be. As things stand, it wavers in tone, style, influences and theme, and is a fairly convincing argument against that storytelling method of throwing as many ideas at the wall as possible and hoping some of them stick. It’s never quite as scary or funny or clever or original as it thinks it is.
But that having been said, Diablero remains watchable pretty much throughout, although this is undoubtedly helped by the thirty-odd-minute episodes, which don’t outstay their welcome. But even beyond that there’s some stuff to enjoy here; occasionally the show embraces the weirdity and camp and just goes wild with it, and there’s an undeniable flair behind the camera that enlivens some of the more played-out sequences. Admittedly the frequently wonky makeup and effects undermine the directorial efforts, but credit where it’s due: If you’re not going to do new stuff, you might as well approach the old stuff creatively.
Is it enough? That remains to be seen. As a laidback, cheesy grab-bag of genre tropes, Diablero is certainly something, but as a work of serious fiction within any one of those genres (it even cribs liberally from superhero properties, just because) the show is a wildly uneven and frequently ridiculous endeavour. However much whiskey you drink over the Christmas period will probably determine your enjoyment of Diablero, and if you find yourself hating it, just drink enough that you won’t remember it afterwards.