Judging by her cheery disposition and fashion-model looks, one might never guess that Gigi Saul Guerrero has made a career of scaring people gutless.
She’s an award-winning director of horror films with LuchaGore Productions, which she co-founded in 2013 as a vehicle for blood- spattered projects that include the La Quinceañera series, El Gigante and Mexico Barbaro.
Not only that, each fall her attention turns to Fright Nights, the Halloween-month PNE attraction that opens tonight (Friday, Oct. 5) for another season of screams in East Vancouver.
“Nobody can see it,” Guerrero said with a laugh, when asked about her career choice. “My parents every day are like, ‘Why, mi hija (daughter), why?’ They also don’t believe it. I get that all the time. At first I tell people I’m a film director, just general, and then if I say specifically what I specialize in, and I say horror films – blood and guts – they’re like, ‘Oh, but you’re wearing a nice flower dress.’ I guess they’d expect me with tattoos and looking all super hip, but I’m really plain, you know, and just a cheery person. I totally understand how people are very shocked by that.
“But it’s also us quiet ones who are the most dark, I think,” she added. “We have the darkest ideas.”
Born in Mexico City and schooled at White Rock’s Earl Marriott Secondary, Guerrero now lives in the Panorama Ridge area of Surrey. On Friday morning, she talked to the Now-Leader while driving to an audition for a voice-over job, work she’s done more frequently of late.
By night, until the first day of November, she’ll work to make Fright Nights as frightening as possible – as a supervisor, mostly. She also directs the TV commercials for the attraction and helps build the haunted houses.
Not surprisingly, the work comes naturally to Guerrero, 28, who got involved seven years ago after finding a job as an actor at the PNE’s summertime fair, while still in film school.
“I was an actor in that first year, and I loved it,” she raved. “From there I’ve been more involved behind the scenes with the acting and supervising, work with the houses, building them, coming up with a couple of the names and training the actors, passing along my experiences with them, helping them out and making it all as scary as possible.”
🎃Tomorrow #FRIGHTNIGHTS opens. The place I've called home for the past 7 years.
From acting, to supervising, to training actors, to helping build the haunted houses and directing their commercials. This wonderful place will forever have my soul. #LaMuñecaDelTerror #horror pic.twitter.com/5woohbuzvl
— Gigi Saul Guerrero (@HorrorGuerrero) October 4, 2018
With both horror films and Fright Nights, Guerrero aims to entertain.
“When people go in there (at the PNE) and are really scared, you feel like you helped make that happen,” she said. “Like with film, it’s a similar audience that wants to be scared. It has a connection there, and it’s kept me inspired for the last seven years. Every year, I’m like, ‘OK guys, this is my last year, I’m going to stick to film now, this is goodbye,’ and I think I’ve said that at least five years in a row, and I just keep coming back. It’s just like, once your soul is part of Fright Nights, you are there forever, you know, you’re part of that family forever. I’ve really enjoyed being part of it.”
Until Oct. 31, Fright Nights will be “unleashing monsters and mysterious creatures to haunt and terrify the public,” with eight haunted houses, 20 rides and three nightly performances by the Monsters of Schlock circus-sideshow act. For more details, visit pne.ca.
In the haunted houses, Guerrero and the others have some difficult work on their hands, she said.
“I’m a supervisor ‘break-er,’ so I’ll be at every house and give them time to breathe, a break, because it gets very crazy in there, especially on the weekends, and we supervisors have a very intense job,” she explained. “Not only the customers, we have to take care of our people, the cast, because they’re the ones bringing it all to life.”
“We have at least 10 to 12 actors per house,” she continued, “so that’s a good 70-plus cast, for sure, and it’s amazing because we do very extensive training – it’s a couple of days, not just, ‘Here’s a pamphlet, read it and get in there,’ we really do hours and hours of training to make it perfect, and we break down their character with them. Every actor is designated to that one role we have worked hard at creating with them, and they dedicate themselves to that every single day. It’s just like a film set, with a cast that brings something to life.”