Review: Curandero – Dawn of the Demon / Cert: 18 / Director: Eduardo Rodriguez / Screenplay: Robert Rodriguez, Luz Mari Rojas / Starring: Carlos Gallardo, Gizeht Galatea, Gabriel Pingarron/ Release Date: May 20th
Steeped in Mexican folklore and co-written by cult icon Robert Rodriguez, Curandero: Dawn of the Demon is an interesting prospect. It tells the story of a cop who teams up with a Curandero (a spiritual healer and exorcist) to purify Mexico City of the demons – both imagined and not – which lie beneath it. It has an intriguing plot and some great action sequences, but Curandero is not the complete success that it could have been.
Shelved by Miramax since 2005, it's taken a long time for this lost Robert Rodriguez movie to reach us. It's a good job that no one was really holding their breath waiting for its release, since that would have made for a lot of disappointed people. Nevertheless, Eduardo Rodriguez (no relation) does a good job of filming Robert's script, which – in typical RR fashion – is fun and stylish, but not without its flaws.
Curandero is like a Spanish language version of Constantine crossed with a fairly traditional (if gory) crime movie. As Magdalena (Galatea) and her Curandero investigate a series of crime scenes (some infested by demons, some not) it becomes apparent that the work of a more traditional form of evil is also at play, in the shape of a sinister Mexican drug lord. Whereas one can be beaten using a carton of eggs, the other may take a little more work. Magdalena and Carlos must scramble before the city's resident drug lord is able to strengthen his hold on the city. But originating from the pen of Robert Rodriguez, rest assured that Curandero is far from a hard-boiled crime drama. Alright, that's enough egg puns. I'm fried anyway. There's lashings of gore, some cool physical special effects and even some nice demon makeup towards the end. The washed out, yellowish look of the film isn't very nice, but it looks no worse than most other low budget horror films out there. Those who dislike reading (shame on you) get the short thrift though, since the English dubbing is awful. Stick with the subtitles.
Had the man himself been stood behind the camera, Curandero could have been a worthy Robert Rodriguez movie. After all, he does have a way with entertaining trash. As it is, it's RR lite – violent fun, marred by an unpleasant colour palette, dodgy acting and convoluted plot. It's a misfire, but an interesting one – a good egg, in spite of its few imperfections.