By now I imagine we’re all, by all I mean avid movie-goers, familiar with the director Robert Rodriguez. The balls-to-the-wall flare for action Rodriguez has written and directed some of the most memorable movies in nearly the last two decades – Desperado, From Dusk till Dawn, Planet Terror and, yes, even Spy Kids. Rodriguez is now a well-known household name now that he has his own production company – Troublemaker Studios – and is a hot-shit friend of Django Unchained writer and director Quentin Tarantino (they’re always in each other films if you haven’t noticed). Now, I had thought that I’ve seen all of Rodriguez’s work with the exception of Spy Kids, but I was wrong. Curandero: Dawn of the Demon is a latest release from Lionsgate; however, the movie was completed and released in 2005 – why such a delay? Perhaps the delay was a product of the film being made in and using the language spoken in Mexico. I wouldn’t doubt this as El Mariachi was not known to the American audience until Antonio Banderas and Selma Hayek starred in Desperado, a sort of sequel or remake of El Mariachi, and an American DVD of El Mariachi was released later.
Curandero, which translate to The Healer, follows the healer Carlos – a practical man who uses his knowledge of healing on those he think are weak minded fools just so they feel better about their lives. That is until he meets Mexican Federale Magdalena who hires him to become involved a case where a satanic cult terrorizes Mexico City. Carlos beliefs will be challenged as black magic becomes ultimately real and the forces against him are closer to home than what he could ever imagine.
Curandero grabs you right from the start as we’re thrown into Carlos’s simple hometown world where he competes with another curandero named Alex Munez who is more popular around town, but even though Carlos thinks his line of work is a bit of a sham, he still makes an effort to please other people making him well liked in the community and has been given respect due to his father’s healing services. The horrifying action begins when Agent Magdalena enters the story; the saucy tall Latina is a realist and doesn’t much in the mumbo-jumbo that is black magic, but her story makes a complete 180 degree turn at the finale and so does Carlos. The story is well written by Rodriguez giving the both Carlos and the federale the same view on spirituality yet making both reason completely different.
Robert Rodriguez’s style directorial feels implemented into Curandero even though Robert Rodriguez didn’t direct the film. It is another Rodriguez who takes the credit for Curandero’s fast-paced, over-exaggerated action. Director Eduardo Rodriguez tries to recreate Robert Rodriguez, but does molds his own take to reconstruct the elements and add great horror qualities that contribute to the action.
This 2005 cult/possession film should have had a much earlier release in the U.S. There is definitely an appeal here for niche horror fans. Would Curandero have done well with mainstream audiences? No because there is just too much working against Curandero when considering American mainstream audiences – it’s in Spanish, it’s lost in translation with the dialogue, and it deals with some Mexican traditions. Certainly pick this up from Lionsgate Home Entertainment. Curandero will fill your cup of blood and horror.