The Mexican Horror Flick, 'Curandero: Dawn of the Demon', Will get Under Your Skin

Curandero is sometimes creepy, sometimes disjointed, but always compelling, nonetheless.

Curander: Dawn of the Demon

Director: Eduardo Rodriguez
Cast: Carlos Gallardo, Gizeht Galatea, Gabriel Pingarron, Ernesto Yanez
Distributor: Lionsgate
Rated: R
Release date: 2013-03-12

This movie is mighty gory, mighty creepy and mighty violent. It's got some genuinely unsettling suspense and a nice sheen of dread hanging over everything. If this sounds like your idea of entertainment, you may just want to seek out this little nugget. The film was orginally released in 2005 but saw only a limited release and has never been available on DVD.

Robert Rodrguez (director of Desperado, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Sin City and From Dusk Till Dawn) acts as producer for this film, directed by Eduardo Rodriguez (no relation). The movie shows some of Robert's influence in its jumpy camera work, intense use of contrast and shadow and general over-the-topness. While it lacks the campiness of From Dusk Til Dawn, it makes up for it with creepiness and some genuinely unsettling moments.

Carlos Gallardo plays Carlos Gutierrez, a curandero--a sort of exorcist/spiritual cleanser who is responsible for purging locales of evil spirits, or perhaps evil spirit residue after the spirits have gone. Gutierrez is unconvincing at his job, however, as he seems disinclined to believe in all this otherworldly hocus-pocus. He goes through the motions when called upon, but his heart isn't in it. But when a lovely police detective named Magdalena Garcia calls on him to purify a police station following the escape of a murderous cult member, Gutierrez gets more than he bargained for. Even if he claims not to believe, the audience probably does.

From here on out, things go from bad to worse. Gutierrez and Garcia seek to track down Castaneda, the kingpin of the Satan-worshipping cult to which the escaped prisoner belonged, a group that is responsible for numerous unsolved murders. They bounce from location to location, dodging both gun-toting gangsters and Gutierrez's increasingly violent, bloody haluncinations. Or are they hallucinations? Are they visions of the future? Glimpses into the soul? Or something else entirely? As the film moves into its third act, a surprising revelation causes the audience to re-think what has come before.

Director Rodriguez favors the scare tactic of using sudden, loud and violent quick-cuts to try to unsettle the audience. It works for a time, but the impact lessens in the second half of the movie as the technique becomes overused. Also confusing is what causes these sudden flashes; there seems to be little pattern to when they appear, apart from the director's need to wake up the audience a little.

The color palette of the film is striking, using high contrast and muted, washed-out colors to lend a heightened air of unease and artifice. Some viewers won't like it, but I think it contributes to the eerie sense of otherworldliness. The score is largely unnoticeable except for those moments when the shock-cuts are accompanied by a screeching violin. The print quality on the DVD version is very good, and the moody picture looks great onscreen.

The special effects and gore are altogether convincing—the sudden splashes of red standing out in sharp contrast to the other muted hues. (Special effects have become so sophisticated these days that it would be surprising if the gore weren't presented convincingly.)

Overall, the acting is strong, with some standout performances. Gizeht Galatea excels as police inspector Garcia, a tough woman with a dark secret—probably not the one you're thinking—whose key scene plays out in a motel room with a dozen eggs. Her vulnerable side becomes apparent: it's a scene that could have been badly botched, but she handles it well.

Less convincing is Gallardo as Gutierrez. He is something of a non-presence here, and his performance lacks the necessary verve that a protagonist needs in a movie like this. After all, we're not rooting for the bloody Satanic death cult—right, kids?—so we need to be rooting for someone.

This DVD presents a widescreen print of the film with both the original Spanish soundtrack and an English dubbed version—watch the Spanish one, please, as the English voice acting is so-so, at best. There are subtitles and they're easy to read. There's also a commentary track with the director, which is marginally interesting as far as these things go, but is unlikely to significantly alter anyone's response to the movie. These are the only bonus features.

Viewers seeking a creature feature with a slightly different flavor might wish to seek out Curandero. Mexico has a long tradition of horror films, and this one is a solid addition to that canon. While not exactly groundbreaking, it's solidly made and well acted, and—who knows?—with a little luck, might even cause a sleepless night or two.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.