Papi Ramirez vs Giant Scorpions is a Latinx fever dream that mixes elements of stop animation, comedy, and kaiju, and wraps it all up in a story of fatherhood. Written and directed by Leslie Rivera, this film serves as a lover to the B-cinema of the 50s and 60s. Similar to The Lost Skeleton of Cadavera, this film knows what it is and through its camp reinvigorates the absurdity that has faded from the spotlight. The film was virtually screened at Salem Horror Fest 2020.
At just under an hour-long, Papi Ramirez vs Giant Scorpions gets a lot done in its run time and delivers exactly what it says in the title. Focused on an Afro-Puerto Rican soon-to-be-father, Bruce, who finds himself fighting for life against flesh-eating scorpions. A stunt-man by trade, he’s taken by a giant mother scorpion who sought him out as food for her children. What keeps him moving forward is his love of his daughter, his promise that he’ll be there for her, even if that promise is only made to a picture of her ultrasound.
The humor in Papi Ramirez vs Giant Scorpions comes from the dialogue and the blending of visual elements like stop-motion animation, live-action, miniatures, and greenscreen. The homage to monster movies of old, coupled with synthwave, works in a way that is hard to describe. A clear low-budget endeavor, the film packs in a lot of heart and passion that can’t be understated, marked by the inclusion of home movies of Rivera and his daughter.
Additionally, Bruce ‘Papi’ Ramirez himself is played by Rivera. But what makes this film special is how Rivera plays our lead character. Papi sounds and acts like every Latino dad I’ve ever met. This is due to the emotion and how he uses language, weaving in English and Spanish in a familiar way—a refreshing detail given how ofter Spanish is used straight from Google Translate in films. With Papi letting out a visceral “wepa” when he’s triumphant, it just lands differently.
But the most astounding element of Papi Ramirez vs Giant Scorpions is the fact that the film was filmed all in one rental storage unit with Rivera as the only constant crewmember. Having handcrafted the miniatures used and stock footage placed on greenscreen backgrounds, Rivera’s ingenuity is on full display. The creativity Rivera showcases in his film honors the B-cinema of the past, where big creative moments were executed with what was available, and creativity reigned supreme.
Papi Ramirez vs Giant Scorpions does more than just live in the cheesy elements of the past, it also modernizes it. Rivera does these in two ways. The first is using techniques from the past that have changed with modern technology. Second, Rivera has put himself on screen. While this may not seem big or as a way to modernize the past, think about the faces you remember from your favorite B-cinema “classic.” They’re white, aren’t they? By putting his Afro-Latinidad clearly at the center of the story, Rivera gives audiences something we don’t see in this genre.
Overall, Papi Ramirez vs Giant Scorpions is a short and heart-filled creative film that shows how much can be done with just a bit of creativity.
Papi Ramirez vs Giant Scorpions
Papi Ramirez vs Giant Scorpions is a short and heart-filled creative film that shows how much can be done with a bit of creativity.