March 12, 2013 (DVD and VOD)
Carlos Gallardo as Don Carlos
Gizeht Galatea as Magalena
Gabriel Pingarron as Castaneda
Carlos is the son of a great curandero (exorcist). Magdalena, a detective from Mexico City, seeks his psychic assistance during the investigation of dozens of grisly satanic murders. Although he followed his father on the path of spiritual healing, Carlos believes his true purpose is to provide psychological reassurance to troubled individuals. Yet, when he starts having gruesome visions during the course of the investigation, Carlos sinks into a personal crisis where he must face the darker reality of a spirit world he has ignored.
Curandero begins with grisly flashes of Satan worshippers dancing amidst bloody entrails and doesn’t relent. From Carlos’ horrific visions to vicious murder scenes, Director Rodriguez delights horror fans with unflinching graphic depictions. Yet, he executes the action in such a way so that the grotesque imagery does not disgust, but frighten and (at times) shock. Rodriguez adroitly balances the gore with appearance and action that unite to intensify the unexpected scares. They are uncontrived and fit perfectly into the storyline – the audience experiences them as Carlos experiences them. The result is a chilling effect reminiscent of The Exorcist (1973), but contorted and enhanced enough to render Rodriguez’s style gore-ifficly unique in its own right.
The story itself is not too special – Carlos must conquer his fears and defeat the leader of the satanic cult spiritually and physically. He begins to understand that he possesses the same special powers the perpetrators use to haunt him. The ending is somewhat predictable and a little disappointing, but the story merely serves as a vehicle for depicting graphic visions, bloody sacrifices and psychic battles – the constant flow of which maintains a palpable tension throughout. The story, as well as its conclusion, also has the feel of a first act (or first part of a trilogy) – the hero has proven himself and now he must go face greater challenges. Admittedly, this may be wishful thinking, as I would very much like to see Rodriguez turn this into a horror franchise because the action left me wanting more.
The acting is not too special and the music is melodramatic. On the more conventional side of the action, Carlos is a perfect shot even though he has never used a firearm – an anomaly which is never explained (but assumed to be the result of his psychic powers). However, these shortcomings do not disturb from the horror – with each gruesome scene – no matter how short – uniquely disturbing in its own right.
Once more, Curandero is all the more disturbing because of its allegorical commentary on contemporary Mexico. During the time of Soviet rule in Russia, censorship was so pervasive that all criticism of the government was necessarily depicted through metaphor or encoded as a subtext in narratives. Unfortunately, over the last ten years the situation with our neighbor to the south has deteriorated to a similar point. Only it is not the government from which citizens fear reprisal, but drug gangs. All individuals who speak out publicly against them are targeted and many have been killed in the most sadistic fashion. The graphic, bloody violence in Curanderocombined with a high body count is comparable to that which drug gangs inflict on Mexican communities. In the film, the police fight the satanic cult but are mostly helpless, just like those who fight the drug gangs. Even the cult leader’s minions behave like gang members. At one point, Carlos not-so subtly slips up and refers to the satanic cult as a ‘Satanic Drug Gang’ even though we never see drugs or hear about them over the course of the movie.
Bottom Line: This is bloody, scary and engrossing – one heck of a good horror movie made all the more disturbing due to its relevance as an allegory to drug violence in Mexico.