The Old Ways, directed by Christopher Alender and written by Marcos Gabriel, IS one of the greatest horror movies you’ll ever watch. Trust us when we say this and add it to your list of horror movies to watch out for. The Old Ways has the emotional depth, feels like a thrill ride, and ultimately turns out to be a coming of age story that you never expected. As a means of celebrating this movie, we got a chance to speak with Christopher Alender and Marcos Gabriel!
Right off the bat, we had to ask about the mythology that made up The Old Ways. And from one Latina to another, it was quite a surprise to find out that Gabriel based a lot of the movies mythology on the stories his mother and grandmother told him in Puerto Rico. “My mother had told me stories about a bruja coming to the house and when she was 10 years old she had to do a cleansing on her father. Which shocked me completely because we born and raised very Catholic. We stayed away from that stuff. But it was part of her story and I would keep asking her questions about those kind of things.”
As the idea for The Old Ways took root, Alender and Gabriel started diving into the internet, every corner of it, to figure out how they wanted to develop this story and all it’s facets. According to Gabriel, “Chris and I, after having the gem of the idea, doing a lot of research and digging through Youtube videos, trying to figure out practices that we could find and kind of enhance and make our own for the movie. There’s several things in The Old Ways like surgeries and some of the cleansing techniques in there that are Googleable or Youtubeable. Don’t go too far down that rabbit hole. But, it’s out there.”
That wasn’t the only influence when it comes to The Old Ways and how things turned out. Because we only get so far if we listen to our abuelita or search the internet. To make this movie even more unique, Gabriel looked outside of Puerto Rico, in other parts of the Latinx community. “As we developed the story further, we kind of settled on this region of Mexico, Veracruz. It was kind of the place where we felt that we could pull a lot of influences for. So, as you know since you’re from Puerto Rico, we have the Afro Caribbean influences that kind of came in. And it’s kind of right along the Caribbean there, Veracruz. So, that draws in some of the influences. Catholicism and you also have the Aztec and Mayan influences of the region. And just that area, Catamaco, is kind of known as the witchcraft capital of Mexico.”
An essential part of making The Old Ways work was the cast and crew. They were the true backbone of this movie and what made it into something more; something akin to family. Alender couldn’t help but praise them and said, “We spent a lot of time making sure we had the right crew; the people we worked with. Most of them we’d worked with them in the past. It was important to have a real good chemistry on set cuz it wasn’t a big crew. It wasn’t a super high budget production so we really had to make sure there was no drama and that kind of thing. It really turned out to be a family. Almost like when we were kids and making movies and everybody’s chipping in. People would be holding leaf blowers and candles; everybody was doing something. The whole time was actually pretty darn fun.”
Making sure that they had the right location was also really important to The Old Ways and Alender. And sometimes you get lucky enough to come across a cave, or a location, that looks like everything you’d envisioned for this movie. Alender told us, “We got into the Camui caves and they were just unbelievable. Long before, a year or two before we started the movie, we had drawn on a marker eraser board on what La Boca should look like and I wanted it to look like a big toothy and evil mouth. And we found…I can literally superimpose the dry eraser drawing right over the cave we found. It was exactly the cave. And it was so cool to go in there and have this all come to life. It was completely full of bats. We couldn’t hear each other talk in there. It was so loud with the water rushing through and the bats making noises and stuff.”
Truthfully, Alender and Gabriel created a movie with atmosphere and complicated storytelling that felt satisfying and unique. It’s in the stories they took influence from. It’s in the places they went to film in. It’s in the people they chose to join them on this journey. And when the time comes, when this movie is released, you’ll join them and love this movie as much as we did.