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Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Curse of El Charro (2005) Horror Ghost Curse

The Curse of El Charro (2005) - I watched this film a few weeks ago and was so unimpressed that I was going to skip reviewing it at all. Sometimes though you just couldn't get a film out of your mind. It is not that it is a particularly memorable film. It is that one aspect of the film was so terrible that I kept thinking I had to write about it. First though a bit of story about it.
Now the producer/writer Ryan R. Johnson and director Rich Ragsdale describe what they were going for in the bonus, making of video. A horror movie for the Latino audience that was tired of the gangster shoot em ups that have been so prevalent. So they came up with the idea of El Charro a cowboy ghost killer of northern Mexico. This is not a Latino film, it is a film with a ghost killer who originates in Mexico. That is the only connection. The character Maria sure enough is supposed to be of mexican descent but there is only a slight connection through the film. Her visions are of places in Mexico, even though the film location itself is in Arizona.
The script focuses on a road trip to a small Arizona town. These four girls, the All American girl Christina (Heidi Androl), the Goth Rosemary (KellyDawn Malloy), The strange and disturbed by dreams lead character Maria (Drew Mia) and possibly the worst stereotype of a young black woman ever put on film, the saucy and sexually aggressive Tanya (Kathryn Taylor). There is a girl gone wild vibe but not really in what ends up being a fairly tame horror film. In fact I think it is how the male writer sees a girls road trip but does not really get it right. Christina is taking her friends down to her Uncle's house for a week of partying and relaxation. It is more like a bunch of guys getting out on the road than woman. The interactions just do not come across as correct, something is a bit off. The purposeful contrast between the characters makes one think that this group would never hang out together but so be it. Including Maria is Christina's idea (They are college roommates) but the other two make it clear that the depressive trouble girl is really not welcomed. In what can only be described as a scene straight out of a bad teen soap opera they directly confront the sad sack so she knows the pecking order in the group and she is dead weight. Although it would be way more likely that Tanya and Rosemary would play nice but maybe internally want Maria to leave instead there is this outward show of disdain. It is more like when young men create a pecking order than when women do. Maybe it is because the writer is a man that this is so skewed, or maybe to have conflict so the story will have more to it; Either way the dynamic is a bit off.
Maria is troubled by dreams of her sister, who recently committed suicide. This eventually gets worse as the movie progresses and through them we learn of the titular curse.
The story takes the girls through desert highways and small towns where they work there way out of trouble through flirtation and possible sexual favors. It is left unclear but Tanya appears to go down on a sheriff who pulls them over. She claimed to have other tricks being the sexual beast she is. They eventually make it to the very nice house and then head into town for some dancing and drinking.
Picking up some local men they head back to the house to continue the party.
Mixed in with this is the story of El Charro (acted by Andrew Bryniarski but voiced by Danny Trejo) , he was a wealthy Mexican land owner who had his eye on a village girl. Shown through silent film style and influenced by the directors fondness for German expressionism the story is in fact the most stylistically interesting part of the film. When spurned by the girl he desired El Charro goes off and kills her. The townspeople angered by this act hang El Charro but as he died he cursed the family of the girl. Now how this brings us to the present some 100 years later is quite the question. If El Charro always comes back for the descendants of the girl how are there any left 100 years later? Maria and her sister are getting visions of the creeper driving the sister to take her own life but why these two? What about their parents? Grandparents? It does not make a lot of sense but sense is not what this film is about. There is an early scene where after a conversation with a priest the priest makes a call to his superiors to talk about her having visions like her sister. This seems to indicate a bigger story with the church involved but the film never comes back to it. Only in the last scene do we see him again but really it is too late then. Other than letting us know she is having visions and so did her sister it adds nothing.
What also does not make a lot of sense is a ghost that walks to where he wants to get to. Here we have a ghost who stalks like a serial killer but at other times just appears. It makes no sense.
Made for 200 thousand dollars you can't expect a superior film but technically the film is well put together, music, sound and filming is not bad. The director was not unskilled and the makeup for El Charro was decent. The acting was not great but some of that was not the actors fault. So where does this film fall down? Well the writing of course, and I would like to say in particular the character of Tanya is a fine example of what not to do in a script. She is the worse stereotype of a black woman, aggressive and mean, with a cat like stance ready to pounce on any weakness. Her interactions are selfish and she while sexually the loose girl of the group is also dismissive when not impressed by a man. At the end of talking about her is the incredibly dreadful dialog she spouts. Here are some wonderful examples of what not to have your young black female character say.
While waiting for Maria who is late, her first line to establish her personality.
" Christina didn't we beg you to tell her freaky ass to stay home?"
" Okay fine she can come, but she better not fuck up my game or I'm kicking her ass."
" Oh and that goes for you too bitch, this is a vacation not a funeral." to the goth.
" Can I help it if I got needs, and don't even trip, you Marilyn Manson looking mother fucker."
When introduced to Maria, "Oh are you coming with." "Anyway you two can sit in the back."
Then immediately challenge sexually by Rosemary we get the comeback.
"Oooo, some lucky man is going to be flossing with these tonight." and "Well we'll just have to see about that. Or maybe I'll have mercy on you and save you my sloppy seconds when I'm done with them."
When introduced to the music for the ride a band called Tard, "Tard! Hell yeah that is the shit! Oh I like them. Arizona here we come."
It is not cool that instead of a mature character the black woman is a smart assed slut. Our societal stereotypes for black women as rude and over sexualized is not something we need reinforced.
So they are driving down the road and Rosemary brings out the pot to smoke and our girl says "Oh you are so sharing that bitch." and then starts singing "Pass the weed, pass the weed." takes a drag and says "Now that's what I'm talking about." " Oh and that was some good shit." Her coughing fit gets them noticed by the cops and the creepy sheriff that pulls them. Here we truly get her stereo type she flirts with the cop. The cop takes her to his car and they both get into the back seat. We see through the rare view window that she goes down on the cop. When she comes back laughing and joking with the cop she tells her friends. "What are you talking about? Like I don't have more tricks up my sleeve that that, God."
I think you get the idea, it was really offensive. I am not sure if it was an intentional joke to have El Charro rip off her jaw as a means to killing her.
So Maria has more visions and the killing comes and slowly we work our way through the death and destruction. We learn all about the curse through Maria and her visions and it is clear through the silent film dreams that this killer ghost is coming for her. She also seems to have a protector in Saint Michael. It is all too confusing. The final scenes are gory good but the film as a whole is not.
When the story gets back to the house with all the locals and the girls we have plenty of bodies for El Charro to machete through. He has to walk to the house so the killing does not start until well over an hour into the movie. At this point the couples are pairing up doing drugs and drinking. A good time I guess in the Arizona desert.
The additional twist at the end was so cliche that any good feelings you had towards this film vanish in the tangle of the straight jacket. I hate when supernatural stories end with, oh it was just a woman who went crazy, but there you have it.
Rating (3.1) 5.0 and up are recommended, some are just more recommended than others.

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