Friday, April 19, 2013

Curandero (2005): Even The Shaman's Magic Can't Save This One...

 Review by Marie Robinson

Although this Mexican-made film apparently came out in 2005, it just hit the shelves here in the States last month. Directed by Eduardo Rodriguez—but more famously produced and written by Robert Rodriguez-—Curandero tells the story of a jaded healer and his quest to help solve a case of ritualistic murder.

Carlos (Carlos Gallardo) has taken on the profession of his late father of the town curandero, or spiritual healer/shaman. His father was incredibly respected and revered, and Carlos (and everyone around him) knows he will never amount to his legacy. It doesn’t help that Carlos hardly believes in the magic that he performs on a daily basis; he thinks, rather, that his potions and spells have a sort of placebo effect on the “cursed”.

One day the monotony in his life is broken when a super sexy (seriously, does this outfit comply with dress code?) federal agent, Magdalena (Gizeht Galatea), shows up at his house requesting the help of his father. After discovery of Carlos’ father’s death and the strange connection between the three of them, Carlos reluctantly takes on his role as curandero to cleanse a crime scene.

A string of brutal and ritualistic murders have broken out in Mexico City, and the superstitious local police force (not very professional, if you ask me) are too afraid to enter the crime scenes without a purification from a curandero.

The two come to the conclusion that the murders are not acting on behalf of Satanism, but Mithraism—a very old and very mysterious Roman religion. (They mention nothing more about it other than it’s name, which is a shame because it is super interesting. Check it out!)

The deeper they go into the drug and violence infested underbelly, the more Carlos begins to doubt himself and the events around him. His father lost his mind to visions—visions that are beginning to plague him—but Carlos can’t be sure to blame them on insanity or a horrifying reality.

As much as I wanted to like this film, it was pretty bad, but it did have potential! Robert Rodriguez’s familiar, seedy, sexy, and often ridiculous story was there, but director Eduardo just did not pull it off. It took itself too seriously, which made the occasional campiness cheesy and unbearable. The pacing was all off—sometimes rushing past and other times dragging on a horrendous shoot-out scene—and too many jump scares dashes any chance at actual suspense or fright.

If the characters were developed in the script you would never have guessed because on screen they are dry, stagnant and often toting a single, universal facial expression. In other words, the acting sucks.

There were some really beautifully shot scenes, and a wonderful attention to light but for some reason the sound editing seemed to me to be just awful. On the DVD I watched there was a dubbed option but I opted for just English subtitles because I would prefer to hear the actors own voices, and I think Spanish is a beautiful language. Point being, I don’t think the sound issues had to do with it being re-recorded for an English-speaking audience because I was listening to the original audio.

I believe this movie could have been done better; who knows why Robert Rodriguez couldn’t directed it himself, but if he did I think we would have a completely different film. The story line was rich enough and there were details about it that I really loved, such as the bits about superstition, Mexican spirituality, and the small reference to the secret, ritualistic religion of Mithraism. On a final note, I’d say that unless you are as big of a sucker for Satanic stories as I am, you will find little to enjoy in this film.


James Gracey said...

Once again FWF has alerted me to a film I'd never heard of! Shame this one didn't do it for you Marie, but I do like the sound of all the elements of Mexican superstition, spirituality and ritualistic religions. And I do love me a good old fashioned Satanic story, too. Your review hasn't got me thinking that I need to rush out and see this, but if I happen across it, I'll give it a whirl. Fanks!

Marie said...


Francisco Gonzalez said...

Thanks for the warning, I was curious about this one myself, mainly because Robert Rodriguez's involvement, but it sounds like it didn't amount to much, still, I'd watch it out of curioisity, and as a rental, well, it doesnt cost so much. Thanks for the review!