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Curandero: Dawn of the Demon (DVD)

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Curandero: Dawn of the Demon (DVD Review)Starring Carlos Gallardo, Gizeht Galatea, Gabriel Pingarrón, José Carlos Ruiz

Directed by Eduardo Rodriguez

Distributed by Lionsgate Home Entertainment


Eight years. Eight long years I’ve waited on this film. As a longtime fan of writer/director/producer/editor/cinematographer/composer/amateur chef Robert Rodriguez, I was excited to hear (years ago) that he would finally be returning to the horror genre long after From Dusk Till Dawn and The Faculty had graced cinemas (this was before Grindhouse, mind). With Rodriguez writing and producing, directorial duties were left to young filmmaker Eduardo Rodriguez (no relation), who had directed a pretty brilliant and chilling short film back in ’99 entitled “Daughter” (watch it here). And with the casting of El Mariachi star Carlos Gallardo, Curandero became a must-see for this fan. I couldn’t wait to watch it.

Except, I did have to wait. Was forced to wait, in fact, for the better part of a decade, as the finished film languished in Weinstein Vault Hell. It became one of those movies, like Jaume Balagueró’s The Nameless or the still unreleased (but coming soon) Mandy Lane, that I would keep an eye out for in magazines and online, hoping that one day an announcement would come heralding its long-awaited release.

Well, that day is finally here. Curandero has finally been released for the masses to view.

…and yikes, how I wish it’d just stayed on the shelf.

Opening with an ominous bit of interviewing and news footage detailing the exploits of the film’s satanic cult leader heavy, the Spanish-language Curandero (subtitled Dawn of the Demon on the DVD case, but not the print) concerns Carlos (Gallardo), a young man whose late father had been a renowned curandero – that is, a faith healer. When the aforementioned cultist Castaneda (Pingarrón) is apprehended by police, young federal agent Magdalena (Galatea) seeks out Carlos’ father to bless the police station and calm the superstitious police officers that toil away there. The skeptical Carlos, perhaps taken with the pretty young agent, agrees to help her in his father’s place – only to be drawn into a supernatural plot that challenges his beliefs and threatens his very soul. Or something like that.

While the basic idea behind the film isn’t terrible, and might’ve made for a decent enough horror/action flick, the execution just fails on every level. Director Rodriguez (credited on the print as Eduardo Andrés Rodriguez Gonzaléz), who displayed a knack for creating tension and beautiful images with his short film, fails to bring any style or energy to this tale of cops and cultists. His direction is lifeless, leaving the film glacially paced and lacking any tension whatsoever (and so we’re clear, annoying flash cuts and shaking the camera around like you’re Paul Greengrass on crank is not an effective way to liven up your action scenes – it just pisses off viewers doing their best to make heads or tails of what’s happening). In addition, Curandero is a surprisingly ugly looking film, with an image bogged down by unnatural colors and heavy, heavy contrast. Perhaps the captured image looked okay to begin with, before somebody treated the living hell out of it with whatever preset filters their editing program made available.

The acting, too, ranges from uninterested to downright awful. Gallardo can be (has been) a captivating lead, but here he seems to be doing his best just to stay awake during the proceedings. And yet, he still manages to fare better than the rest of the cast – especially Pingarrón as the film’s villain, who comes off as more laughable than frightening. All this is topped off with creature effects that’d likely get somebody’s ass booted off an early episode of “Face Off” (shame, as I’m usually a fan of creature designer Patrick Tatopoulos’ work), leaving Curandero an entirely unpleasant experience – and not in the good way.

Lionsgate has dumped the film with a DVD-only release, and that’s just fine. The image is surprisingly sharp, but it’s such an unsightly film that this might actually be considered a disservice to the unwitting folks who get duped into watching this. The 5.1 audio track is serviceable, while the disc’s sole bonus feature is an audio commentary with the director and his D.P.

I wish Eduardo Rodriguez all the luck with his next project, whatever that may be. “Daughter” showed great promise, and I have no doubt that he’s capable of making a fine film one day. But Curandero isn’t it. Unless you’re a masochist, or in need of a cheap way to cure insomnia, steer clear of this snoozefest.

Special Features

  • Commentary with Eduardo Rodriguez and Director of Photography Jaime Reynoso

    Film:

    1 out of 5

    Special Features:

    1 out of 5

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