top of page
  • Rev Horror

Luis Javier Henaine Interview (Director, Disappear Completely)

The Horror Revolution: First off, what’s your favorite horror movie? What movie scared you the most?

Luis Javier Henaine: Well, that's a tough question because there are so many great ones, from classics like Rosemary’s Baby, The Shining, Evil Dead and Cronos, to more recent gems like The Witch, Hereditary, The Wailing and It Follows, or horror comedies, such as American Werewolf in London, The Day of the Beast, Get Out and Drag Me to Hell. But if I had to choose one, it would have to be Halloween. I remember watching it when I was around 8 or 9 years old, without my parents' permission, of course. I saw it on TV, so it was probably the edited version, but there was something about it that captivated me. I was scared, yet utterly transfixed by its eerie atmosphere and minimalist storytelling. Despite the sleepless nights it caused me, I couldn't help but love it. As I grew up, I came to appreciate its finer details, from Carpenter’s style and use of suspense, to his music—the best horror score ever—and the way it paved the way for modern slashers despite its low-budget origins. It's now a tradition for me to watch it every Halloween night, and it still remains masterful. Another film that haunted my childhood dreams was Nightmare on Elm Street. Freddy seemed to seep into my nightmares all the time. All things considered, if I had to choose the ultimate horror film, it would undoubtedly be The Exorcist. It’s just perfect.

THR: I really enjoyed Disappear Completely and thought the concept was wholly unique. What inspired the film?

LJH: Thank you, though the credit belongs to Ricardo Aguado-Fentanes, who began working on the screenplay twenty years ago. At that time, he had a friend who lived near Catemaco, Veracruz, Mexico’s primary hub for witchcraft, who shared with him several real-life stories about different curses and the effects they had on people. Inspired by this, he conceived the idea for a film, eventually settling on the concept of a character losing his five senses.

THR: As someone who wears corrective lenses, the concept of going blind is absolutely terrifying to me. How were you able to convey the main character in the film losing each of his senses one at a time?

LJH: I also wear eyeglasses, and there was a time when I couldn’t see anything without them. I’ve also experienced some hearing episodes. So, drawing from these personal experiences, I set out to create a “sensory film”. Firstly, I opted to tell the story from the character’s perspective with the intention of putting the audience in his shoes. Then, I employed film language and cinematic techniques—including acting, camera shots, sound design, editing and cinematography— to depict each of the character’s senses. Finally, by combining all of these elements, my goal was to craft an immersive cinematic journey. While this may be more impactful in a theater setting, you can still experience it to a lesser degree at home.

THR: Harold Torres, who played the lead role in Disappear Completely, did a fantastic job in his role as a crime scene photographer who has fallen victim to a terrifying curse. How closely did his performance mirror the written script for the film?

LJH: When writing a screenplay, you envision the characters performing as you desire or imagine. However, once you cast your actors, particularly if they’re as talented as Harold, they begin to inhabit the character's skin. This immersion prompts them to pose questions, sparking ideas and suggestions. Achieving a great performance depends on your receptiveness to their insights; after all, they are the ones breathing life into the character, understanding them from within. Of course, their input must align with your vision for the film, and you must guide them accordingly. Yet, this collaborative process often yields unexpected results, with certain aspects remaining true to your original concept while others evolve into something entirely new. In the end, what you initially envisioned takes on a life of its own.

THR: You both directed and co-wrote the film. Is it easier to direct a film that you wrote than one you didn’t? How much of the filmmaking process is changed when you know the motivations that went into each scene on a personal level?

LJH: This is a very good question. It’s definitely easier, at least for me, when I know the story in-depth, the characters’ motivations, and why I wrote it in the first place; I already have all the answers. However, if it’s not my original screenplay, it's my job to analyze and interpret it thoroughly to fully understand it. This is actually the first time I've worked on a film that I didn’t write from the beginning. Initially, I didn’t intend to co-write it, but as I delved into the story and analyzed the screenplay, I started to have questions and discovered aspects that resonated with me and others that didn't. This process of discovery ultimately led me to realize the story I wanted to tell with the film. So far, I haven’t worked on a film where I didn’t know the motivations behind each scene. Collaborating closely with Ricardo, provided me with all the information I needed. The only difference would likely be the extra effort required when getting involved in a story you didn’t conceive. But, I imagine that if you don’t have the opportunity to work with the writer, the approach to directing could be different, as you would need to develop your own interpretation of the material." 6. Is horror your preferred genre to work within? Are there other genres you enjoy exploring as a filmmaker? This marks my debut in the genre; my first two films are comedies, and I currently have two more in development. I believe each genre presents its own set of challenges, but it's the approach that sets them apart. In comedy, the goal is to evoke laughter, while in horror, the aim is to instill fear; however, both ultimately aim to elicit emotion from the audience. Despite their differences, I find these genres remarkably similar, evidenced by the existence of horror comedies. Ultimately, for me, it’s all about the screenplay, regardless of genre, if a story resonates with me or captures my interest, I'm eager to explore it.

THR: If you could work with anyone in the industry, alive or dead, who would it be and why?

LJH: My favorite filmmaker of all time is Kubrick, so it’s an obvious choice for me. Not necessarily to work with him, but just to be present on his set, observe him hone his craft, and delve into his creative process. I would long to understand the intricacies of his decisions and the rationale behind them, to absorb his wisdom and learn all I can. As for living filmmakers, Scorsese holds the same appeal for me, for exactly the same reasons. He’s arguably the best filmmaker alive.

THR: Mexican horror seems to be on the rise within the industry, and it’s a wonderful thing to see. What do you feel that Mexico offers culturally that helps to create films that resonate with horror audiences?

LJH: There’s definitely a lot that Mexico offers culturally to foreign audiences, but specifically regarding horror, I think it’s the Mexican folklore and urban legends that stand out. These tales may seem like fiction, but they are actually deeply rooted in our reality. In the case of this film, I can say that 'nota roja' (news related to violent crimes) and 'brujería' (witchcraft) are two aspects that are very unique and common in our culture, and that every Mexican can relate to. However, these same elements, which are normal to us, may lead to a different experience when seen through foreign eyes. You could say we’re delving into folk horror.

THR: What is your position on horror remakes? Are they disrespectful to the source material, or can they be new and exciting additions to existing properties?

LJH: If you could remake any horror film, what would it be and why? While I generally lean towards original films and am not particularly fond of remakes, I make an effort to watch every horror film released, inevitably encountering some remakes, sequels, prequels, reboots, or requels along the way. That being said, there are a few exceptions that have impressed me. Films like Suspiria, It, and David Gordon Green's Halloween (more of a reboot than a remake) stand out. Some remakes have even achieved classic status, such as The Fly, The Thing, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Nosferatu, and The Ring. Still, disappointments are far more common. Therefore, my feelings about horror remakes are mixed. While in capable hands, there is potential to honor the source material while still offering a fresh and personal take, in the wrong hands, the result can be lackluster. As for remaking a specific film, I don't have one in mind. But, if I were to undertake such a project, I would steer clear of the classics.

THR: What’s next for you? Are there any exciting upcoming projects you can talk about?

LJH: Unfortunately, there's no horror film on the horizon, but I'm always on the lookout. However, I do have a couple of comedies that I hope to make next year.

THR: Finally, what is the strangest thing you have ever received as a gift?

LJH: An artist friend gave me an anatomical head model.

Featured Reviews

Featured Interviews

bottom of page