Reviewed by Mike Ferraro
Eduardo Rodriguez (the upcoming Fright Night 2) seems to be a dual-personality director who is certainly gifted in some areas of filmmaking, but lacks terribly in many others. Curandero: Dawn of the Demon marks his feature-length debut, which tells the story of Carlos (Carlos Gallardo – El Mariachi), a spiritual healer thrust into an investigation of Castaneda, a local Satanic leader/drug lord.
Carlos’ father was a well-known curandero who helped Magdalena (Gizeht Galatea) overcome a possession of sorts during her childhood. Today, she is a federal agent investigating a man who recently escaped jail as if he disappeared. Since the man who once saved her life has died, Carlos respects his father’s legacy enough to help her.
His first order of business is to cleanse the police station where the incident occurred. Once there, he notices that the entire force is standing outside of the building – they refuse to go in. The cell in which Castaneda escapes from is now a crime scene complete with an outline of where a body was hanging and a marking signifying the beast’s territory.
It is here when he gets his first sense of a reality these superstitious religious beliefs can bring. When he gets closer to the chalk outline, he gets a flash of the corpse that hung there before investigators took it down.
Once he starts investigating the case further, Carlos starts putting away his doubts towards religious superstitions. He can’t seem to make it through a single location without seeing some gruesome imagery taking over – even though no one else sees it.
It is with this imagery where Rodriguez’s skill maxes out. The violence and gore of it all is constructed so well and in haunting fashion, despite the fact the pointless chaotic editing choices practically destroy their power. Even simple establishing shots are overblown and inanely prolonged.
Aside from editing, comes the monotonous camera work throughout. Each angle and shot composite comes straight tripod, three-camera set-up Hell. It would seem that only a handful of shots are handheld (most during action sequences) and even those are uninspiring.
The film’s story, co-authored by Robert Rodriguez, might not be among the best ever told in the history of Satanic/Cult horror, but it does strike up enough original ideas to standout. The characters, though clichéd as can be, are at least plausible enough to care for their plights. Still, whether it can be attributed to bad direction or bad acting, they aren’t accomplished enough to transcend the material.
Regardless, Curandero is still gory and creepy enough to deserve a watch from any fan of the genre. IMDB give the date of production as 2005 without providing further information. It’s hard to say why it sat around so long but it is even more difficult to contemplate a marketing campaign.
The DVD release contains only one extra – an uninteresting commentary from the director and cinematographer (Jaime Reynoso). The track talks about the challenges of a 25-day shoot and a low budget, director Robert Rodriguez’s hatred towards 35mm film production (sigh), and character motivations.