Exclusive Interview with Lex Ortega

I’m a huge fan of the film Atroz by Lex Ortega. In my opinion it’s one of the best extreme horror films made in the last 10 years… maybe ever. It’s unrelenting and brutal beyond imagining.  I’m incredibly excited to have this opportunity to talk with Lex Ortega about it and his future plans to make films.

  • HoTS:  Before making Atroz you were the mastermind behind Mexico Barbaro what made you decide to make Mexico’s first horror anthology movie? How was it received?
  • Lex: Actually I was on the metro and I was thinking what shortfilm should I do next? Then I realized there were a lot of directors thinking the same thing, trying to get their films on festivals, paying fees, trying to finance themselves their production, etc. So I got the idea to unite efforts and make an anthology, in this case we could get distribution, promotion for us as directors, in overall a better projection than a single shorfilm, and maybe have an economic retribution for our job. It had a great reception from the audience all over the world, we got distribution around 8 counties and Netflix America (all continent), and we were in around 50 festivals all over the world.
  • HoTSAtroz was insanely brutal, in the opening it says 98% of the 27,500 murders per year in Mexico go unsolved. Did you make the film as a social commentary, meant to shed light on the level of violence there or did you just want to make an extreme film? Personally, I respect both.
  • Lex: It started weird, at the beginning I just wanted to shoot a torture sequence with no credits and release it on the internet as a supposed “Snuff film”, then I realized a lot of talent was getting involved, as well as my savings that I was going to invest on it so I decided to make it an actual shortfilm (the first video tape you see on the feature), after it was done, I was getting censorship and lots of comments on how brutal this short was. THAT WAS A PUMP OF GAS FOR ME! and I said, I want to scream louder about these topics, then making the documentary investigation to create the profile of the main character (Goyo) I got into these hard numbers you mention, and I turned the story into a social critique to the institutions, from our first social contract that we have as individuals such as family, to the state, and politics that are supposed to be there to protect us as a society.
  • HoTS:  Is your movie an accurate portrayal of violence in Mexico?
  • Lex: In certain ways yes, we don’t have a specific record on serial killers like the US, and in my personal opinion that is because a lot of murders that happen in Mexico are attributed to the Narco, and there is no investigation about it.
  • HoTS: I imagine Atroz might be bad for tourism, how did the Mexican people receive it?
  • Lex: I don’t make tourism promotions, I do horror films so I really don’t mind. When must people watch Atroz they’re shocked, and that makes me happy for 2 reasons, the first one is that for me cinema has to make you feel something, it doesn’t matter the genre, if not, it means it is not working. And second and most important is seeing people freaking out watching violence tells me that we haven’t normalized violence yet, by the time we watch graphic violence and we feel nothing it means that we don’t have empathy for each other, then we will be rotten as a society.
  • HoTS: As a Canadian I was excited to learn you came here to go to a very prestigious school in Montreal. What made you decide to attend the Trebas Institute? How did you like your stay here?
  • Lex: Oh man Canada is very important for me, it means a lot in my life. I was living in beatiful Montreal studying Sound Engineering, How I got there? It was weird, I was studying the second semester of Civil Engineering at UNAM (the biggest university in Latin America) in 1999 it went on strike for over a year and a half, so obviously I couldn’t keep studying there, my dad told me I had to start over in a new university because it seemed like the strike was going to take forever, so I told my old man that I was going to start over but this time I wanted to study what my real passion is, and he goes: Ok, so where and what are you studying? I told him Sound Engineering, but that career didn’t exist in Mexico at that time so I started looking for schools around the world and a good friend of mine went on vacation to Canada from coast to coast and I asked him what was the city he liked the most and he said Montreal, so I applied to Trebas in Montreal and I got it.
  • HoTS: Atroz is presented by extreme horror legend and director of Cannibal Holocaust Ruggero Deodato, how did you manage to score such an amazing endorsement?
  • Lex: I meet Ruggero back in 2004 in Bogota, Colombia, me and the producer Abigail Bonilla were presenting Mexico Barbaro in a fest called Zinema Zombie Fest and Ruggero was also a guest from the festival.  We were promoting the crowd funding at that time so Ruggero helped fund it, but further than the economic help he gave us I wanted him to endorse the film.  We asked him if we could use his name on the promotional advertisement for the movie, at that time he was like: Ok, but I would like to see what it is about. When we finished the film we sent it over and he loved it and he said yes to our request and became an associate producer of the film.
  • HoTS: Do you have future plans to make more extreme movies?
  • Lex: Of course hermano!!!, personally I don’t want to do the same thing over and over, I am not interested to make things other than horror.
    The horror genre is huge and I would love to dig deeper into it, to other topics and subgenres, but I definitely like to tell stories in a violent way, where antagonists are not just bad, I want them to be real sons of bitches.
  • HoTS: What are some of the movies and directors that inspired you to get into film?
  • Lex: If I had to pick a top 3 I would say, Roman Polanski’s Repulsion, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Cannibal Holocaust.
  • HoTS: It’s my understanding that you are also a talented musician, what can you tell fans about your band?
  • Lex: I don’t know if I’m talented but I really love music, it’s very important in my life and career, that’s what made me start in the industry. It was music that made me decide to study Sound Engineering, then after working on a studio making sound design for films, that made me decide to grab a camera and shoot my first short film called “Devourment”.  I didn’t know how to direct a film at that time, all I knew was that my premise was: How do zombies hear us?, what if a human screams, sirens and helicopters are so loud and annoying for them, that they just want it to stop and attack to get it done?I started a band called “The Massacre Must Begin” with a couple of friends back in 2009 (Our album is on Atroz’s bluray that Unearthed Film released in the US), then we  broke up, some of them became parents, I guess our interests changed.Now, this week you will be able to hear my new band’s album on Spotify, Apple Music, Itunes and all the streaming platforms. We are called Belibette and we’re relasing our first LP calle 72 Huries, it’s a strong-in your face technical Grindcore. So go and listen to it!
  • Thank you very much for answering all my questions, I enjoyed your answers very much and look forward to watching the next disturbing film you make. I’d also like to thank John Roisland for setting up this interview and being our go between and just an all around good guy. Thank you both for the opportunity.




Posted by Candace Stone

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