Curandero – a traditional Native American healer or shaman in Latin America, who is dedicated to curing physical or spiritual illnesses.
So near and yet so far. Those were my feelings towards Eduardo Rodriguez’s feature length debut (co-written by one Robert Rodriguez) , a Mexican horror/action hybrid that delves into the macabre worlds of black magic and the occult, with varying results.
The story concerns Curandero Carlos (Carlos Gallardo) and a young police detective named Magdalena (Gizeht Galatea) and their investigation into the disappearance of a notorious satanic cult leader and black magic practitioner named Casteneda.
The first half of the movie consists of the pair’s investigation and is, frankly, a bit of a chore. There are enough interesting images, creepy details, (half hearted) gunfights and welcome splashes of gore to keep things moving, but only just, it almost feels that these moments were positioned throughout the slower first portion of the film to distract from the lousy pacing and slightly awkward storytelling. There’s an element of attention deficit editing at work too, it’s a little too flashy and lacks subtlety, over-egging the pudding during what could have been some effectively sinister moments.
Both the pace and general quality of the film pick up considerably in the latter portion of the film though, plot threads come together in interesting and unexpected ways, the stakes are raised, tension builds, all the way up to a genuinely exciting conclusion enlivened by some imaginative and well constructed fx work. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable second half that rewards the patience required to slog through the earlier portion of the film.
Performances are average across the board, the two leads are decent if unspectacular, with the rest of the cast giving performances that range from solid to unintentionally amusing. For a low budget horror flick from a first time director, the acting could have been much, much worse.
The direction is a little flat and uninspired it has to be said, the camera work in particular lacks energy, and as previously stated the editing is frustratingly chaotic and over the top. It’s a weird mix, lots of quite dull, static camera shots, edited in a kind of frenzy to appear more energetic. It doesn’t work and comes across messy and a little amateurish, though it’s forgivable for a first time director and doesn’t totally detract from the more effective moments and imagery.
Curandero is different enough from standard Hollywood horror fare to be worth a watch, there are issues with pacing for the first half and as far as the technical side of things go it’s a little rough, but come the end it’s a pretty rewarding and memorable experience.
Director: Eduardo Rodriguez
Stars: Carlos Gallardo, Gizeht Galatea, Gabriel Pingarrón
Runtime: 92 min
Country: USA, Mexico