Directed by Rich Ragsdale
Distributed by Paramount Home Entertainment
So I’m sitting here in front of my computer screen preparing myself to review the The Curse of El Charro DVD spinning in my DVD-ROM. I have the “behind the scenes” feature playing next to a blank Word document. My cursor is blinking away patiently like an eager dog waiting for a command, and all I can come up with is “stay.”
I watch as a poorly edited interview drones on and try to recall the movie itself. Listening to the director, Rich Ragsdale, tell tales of the hardships the cast and crew endured during filming and then the endless praises from the actresses about how wonderfully kind and accommodating the director is … yadda yadda yadda … I start to think to myself, “Maybe this movie wasn’t as bad as I remember.” The half-hour feature ends, and I decide to play the film again to get a fresh perspective of ol’ El Charro. After all, I WAS tired when I watched it the first time.
The opening sequence plays out, and I find myself initially impressed with the photography, lighting, and thick atmosphere. The disturbing imagery and damning religious tones are very effective. We head into the opening credits, and I again think, “Hmm, this doesn’t look too bad.” Then the REAL movie starts, and I am snapped back to reality with a double image fade and a slap in the face for ever doubting my original feelings about The Curse of El Charro.
Within the first thirty minutes of the movie, there have already been three dream sequences, and from my former viewing I know they are not about to stop anytime soon. Plus, we have visited a bar with clientele rivaling that of the Titty Twister for strangeness, and I can’t even begin to describe the local “talent.”
Yes, now it’s all coming back to me. Four college girls from Los Angeles are on their way to some back-ass college town in Arizona to party away their break. Yeah, EVERYONE in LA drives an entire day through the desert to party in Arizona! From the weakly delivered dialogue I am reminded that one is a mental case, another is too fucking chipper for her own good, and the other two are raging sluts! None of these girls would ever tolerate each other in the “real world,” and they reinforce every reason I’ve ever had to hate most of the women I know.
Almost an hour into the film the lead loony, Maria, is shown a cautionary tale about her destiny in “silent film” style. This would have been far more effective if it hadn’t pandered to the ignorant with moronic subtitles that explain far too much of the imagery that is shown to the audience. You know, just in case someone might possibly be too stupid to figure it out on their own. Because they might not have gotten the reference of a man hanging in a tree … from a rope tied to a branch … around his neck. Yeah, thanks for the help there, guys … I got it!
In a roundabout way you learn that Maria is being stalked by a long dead freak, El Charro (Bryniarski), who had fallen in love with one of her ancestors but was turned away by the woman. In an angry, jealous rage he murdered the woman’s family. Before he could get to her, the townsfolk rose up against him and killed him, but not before he cursed the woman’s entire bloodline. That’s what I call LOVE!
Now the already unstable Maria is on the verge of madness and gets dragged back to the place they’re staying at by her horny friends and the losers they have picked up at the “club” where they were all partying. But first we meet the worst actress of the bunch in a bit part that would be all but forgettable if it weren’t for the fact that she has some of the most priceless lines in the whole movie along with a putrid vocabulary that would surely have warranted a whole bottle of dish soap at my Grandma Great’s house. Fuck that whole spoonful thing I used to get! From the moment she’s on screen to the moment she “meets” El Charro, her acting is shit, but she is one of the best parts of the film. She doesn’t even have a purpose for existing, but she’s hysterical nonetheless.
Note this time for future reference — 1:16:57. It signifies an odd addition to the story. The sequence is not very long, but it will certainly get your attention. I wouldn’t want to give away any of the juicier details so suffice it to say that Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon in a little movie called Bound come to mind. There may be some badly applied make-up appliances during this scene, and there is far less damage to the bodies for all of the hacking that takes place, but hey, who’s really looking at the make-up anyway?
The movie takes its time getting to the point, but once El Charro gets his blade bloody, there’s no stopping him. Well, not without the help of the angels, but that’s not important and kind of ridiculous anyway so I won’t mention it further. Let’s just say that there’s more blood in the last ten minutes than in the entire rest of the film.
The Curse of El Charro winds up being a simple slasher flick in the end, emphasis on simple. It plays out like a pathetic fireworks display. A puny spark every few minutes and then a finale that fizzles out at the end, making you wonder why you just sat on a damp lawn being eaten by mosquitoes for the past hour and a half waiting for it to get dark enough to see a dozen sparklers and what you think may have been a flaming duck fly overhead.
Although some of the effects were well done and a few of the kills were somewhat unique, The Curse of El Charro left me feeling let down and more than a bit cheated. There was some potential that was lost by a director who seemed to try too hard to build up suspense and an atmosphere of panic and dread using quick cuts of jerky and disturbing imagery and misplaced visuals and editing. Rich, you can’t have it both ways. Either make a slasher flick or make a heavy suspense film. Don’t try to make one and then throw the other in at the end. Or you’ll end up with an audience that drives home in slow moving, bumper-to-bumper traffic scratching bug bites and wondering why they weren’t in bed an hour ago.
So, brothers and sisters, listen to me. The Curse of El Charro is a mildly interesting slasher film that doesn’t have all that much to boast about other than a special guest appearance by Lemmy Kilmeister of Motorhead fame. It delivers only a few decent kills, several badly acted parts, and editing that at times is much too distracting. The director definitely has an eye for the macabre — this is evident from watching his short film included in the extras on the disc — but some of his fantastical imagery is bound to be lost on the average slash and gash fan.
And there you have it, a full breakdown of The Curse of El Charro. I myself wouldn’t go out of my way to watch this movie, but it may have a certain appeal to genre fans who enjoy the typical slasher movie fodder. Just don’t expect a high budget film with lots of gratuitous gore or even nudity, or you will be sadly disappointed. The DVD is just as meager as the film itself, offering only the unusual short film by director Rich Ragsdale and a brief interview/behind-the-scenes session that is poorly edited and seems almost thrown together. Not surprising really, all things considered.
Making of The Curse of El Charro
Into Something Rich and Strange short film
2 out of 5