I haven't watched a proper horror film for ages, so to be honest, when a preview copy of Curandero : Dawn of the Demon plopped on the door mat, I wasn't sure how much of the film I would spend hiding behind a cushion !
If - like me - you're unfamiliar with the Spanish word Curandero, it's the name given to a Native American healer or shaman in Latin America who is often involved in cleansing rituals. Once I found this out, I was expecting a South American version of The Exorcist without all the Catholic imagery and that's basically what you get.
I found it hard to get into the atmosphere of the film to begin with, probably not helped by the fact that I spent the first ten minutes watching the Spanish version subtitled in English, convinced that this was the introduction and it would soon switch to English, before realising that this is in fact a Spanish-language film so I needed to head back to the menu and select the English version. Watching a dubbed film where the words coming out of the actors' mouths don't match the lip movements always makes a film seem less convincing to me though, so it was already at a slight disadvantage. The actors reading the English script didn't seem anywhere near as convincing as the original Spanish version either, so you may be better off watching the version with English subtitles for authenticity.
The action centres around Carlos, a Curandero who is called in by a (obviously young and beautiful) federal agent called Magdalena (cue the obligatory sexual tension) to help purify a police station that has been tainted by the black magic rituals used by a local drug lord. Carlos has inherited his father's powers and isn't entirely at ease with them - if he could turn his back on his gift and stop the demonic visions that haunt him, he would - and this somehow made me respect him less as a character.
Despite being rated 18, I didn't actually think it was that scary. It has gore by the bucketload (sometimes literally) and some very nasty scenes and flashbacks, but I didn't flinch once. I think it lacks the psychological build-up of the classic horror films like Poltergeist and The Shining which rely on gripping storylines and mounting tension rather than gore to get the adrenaline pumping. I'm not sure if it was the language barrier or the rather rambling and predictable storyline but I just didn't feel any connection with the characters so ultimately I didn't really care what happened to them.
It has some interesting moments though - the flashbacks are intense (although I could never work out if they were supposed to be actual events or just in the Curandero's mind) and I liked all the little nods to local traditions and rituals, such as using eggs to exorcise demons. It's good to see an occult horror film that moves away from the classic tale of Catholic exorcism rituals.
star rating : 3.5/5
RRP : £9
- Actors: Carlos Gallardo, Gizeht Galatea, Gabriel Pingarrón, José Carlos Ruis, Jorge Zepeda
- Directors: Eduardo Rodriguez
- Number of discs: 1
- Classification: 18
- Studio: Lions Gate Home Entertainment UK Ltd
- DVD Release Date: 20 May 2013
Disclosure : I received a copy of the DVD in order to write an honest review.
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