The Robert Rodriguez produced and written horror flick “Curandero: Dawn of the Demon” made its debut all the way back in 2005 at the L.A. Screamfest horror movie festival. The film received decent buzz due to Rodriguez’s status as an emerging talent in the industry and his recent success at the helm of that summer’s “Sin City.” Yet, Rodriguez’s Spanish language film directed by Eduardo Rodriguez (no relation) didn’t get a U.S. theatrical release. This is understandable due to being a foreign language film but didn’t even get a home video release until now.
Telling the story of the Mexican drug underworld, “Curandero,” which means “faith healer,” sees federal agent Magdelena (Gizeht Galate) bring in faith healer, Carlos to help exorcise the police force from the demons that the drug underworld has inflicted upon them. One of Carlos’ faith healing techniques is rubbing a person down with an egg. This leads to a bizarre sexually charged scene midway through the film with Carlos sensually healing Magdelena with a chicken egg. Not exactly “9 1/2 Weeks,” but whatever works for them, right?
The prevailing theme of “Curandero” is contrast. Shot with HD video cameras, a staple of Robert Rodriguez’s films, “Curandero” presents a stark visual contrast between light and dark. Many scenes are very brightly lit but with deep shadows within the same shot. The colors are also over saturated which results in a very sharp, but dream like feel to film, not unlike “Sin City.”
The contrast is also demonstrated in the film’s contents. More of a crime-thriller than a straight up horror flick, “Curandero” will offer viewers short glimpses of what can only be described as demented imagery of the demons and what they are doing inside of their victims. If you want to feel slightly unsettled while watching a movie, you will likely find this one very satisfying. Scare –for-scare, it doesn’t compete with other horror films which have a surprise lurking around every corner, but the scares in “Curandero” pack a lot of punch.
The third contrast, and not necessarily a positive one is the contrast between how the film is marketed and how it is actually presented on screen. The box art for the DVD shows a half-naked, demonic looking woman with leggings and a broad pair dragon-like wings. Combine this imagery with the quotes like “Creepy and Outlandish” on the back of the box would lead you to believe that this is a more conventional horror film with a monster for a villain chasing and killing innocent people. The reality of “Curandero” is that this is a thriller with some horror inspired thematic elements mixed in. Fans of “Law and Order” will get just as much, if not more, enjoyment out of this movie as fans of “Friday the 13th” will.
“Curandero” is a visually impressive film, particularly for a low-budget DVD release. Shooting on HD video certainly helps the visual appeal of the film. Everything looks very sharp, and gets about as close to true HD that you can expect from a DVD. There is an exterior scene towards the end of the film that was obviously shot on a green screen that looks pretty amateur but besides this one suspension of disbelief breaking scene, everything looks excellent and very professional.
The film does not offer much in the audio department. There is very little music in the film and big sound effects are minimal. Dialogue is more than audible with the only detraction being that the English dubbed version of the film features some pretty stiff vocal acting that makes it hard to stay engaged in the material. I would recommend watching the film with the original soundtrack and English subtitles.
The only special feature on the DVD is an audio commentary with Eduardo Rodriguez and Director of Photography Jaime Reynoso. The commentary is insightful and helps in adding some depth and context to the material. It’s a recommended listen if you enjoyed the film.
“Curandero” also features an Ultraviolet Digital Copy that allows you to stream the movie from a variety of Internet connected devices. Unfortunately, this feature does not work in Canada so I am unable to comment on the quality of it.
“Curandero: Dawn of the Demon” is only a recommended view for the most diehard of horror fans or if you are a Robert Rodriguez completist. If you’re looking for something along the lines of “Sin City” or “Planet Terror,” you’ll see glimpses of it but may be disappointed. Keep in mind before you go in that this was a Robert Rodriguez written piece, not directed, and was made about eight years ago. There may be a reason why Robert Rodriguez chose not to direct this one himself. Overall, I found “Curandero” to be a visually appealing but emotionally underwhelming 90 minutes of cinema.