Curandero (2005) - A complex and winding tale following an investigation of murders in Mexico. It is also a supernatural tale of the battle between good and evil. At the center of this story are two characters Carlos (Carlos Gallardo) and Magdalena (Gizeht Galatea). Carlos Guttierez is a reluctant Curandero, a spiritual healer in latino culture. He sort of inherited the power to see the signs of good and evil from his father Don Carlos (Jose Carlos Ruiz) but is reluctant to embrace the visions which can be quite disturbing. He is a man who while growing up saw the tricks of the trade when his father was casting out evil, or purifying a place for the locals and sees that a good deal of what was done is slight of hand and tricks. He chooses to limit the work he does in this field instead letting the other curandero in town Alex (Javier Escobar) take much of the work. His father only passed away a few weeks before and it is unclear if that is the reason he is passes on work or if seeing behind the curtain has made him too skeptical to be a curandero? Any way you cut it this is a guy who is very reluctant to wear the helm left by his father. When he does get pulled into the story it is with reservations and an attitude that the people who believe in evil are silly in their beliefs.
The actor Carlos Gallardo who is probably most famous for his first role as El mariachi in Robert Rodriguez's first film is calm cool and aloof in the role. He and Rodriguez have a history and since this film is written and executive produced by the Rodriguez, Gallardo steps in as a regular player in his films. It is also note worthy that this actor played God in the Soska sisters "Dead Hooker in a Trunk". Not that it has any bearing on this film just a cool connection since those girls are making so much of a buzz these days.This picture held out of the US market until this year can be found on Amazon Prime for about a 4 dollar rental. It may be other places for cheaper so shop around.
Brought into a case by Federale Magdalena Garcia, a cop with a past tied to the Guttierez family. This story does not give you all the information all at once, in fact it is so densely plotted that it takes the full running time of 92 minutes to tell all the details. The case is a strange one, people have been going missing and the police finally get a break. An informant named Lopez is taken into custody and spills the beans on his leader known as Castaneda (Gabriel Pingarron). The police arrest the man and start to work there way through trying to identify the victims. Castaneda is a spiritual legend, a satanic cult leader of great magical power who is like the curandero gone bad. His drug cartel is using black magic to gain power. Even when arrested he is arrogant in his confidence and soon uses his magic to escape. This is what prompts Magdalena to seek out Carlos, the police station has had bad magic used on it and the police will not enter again until it has been purified. Since as a child she was helped by the elder Don Carlos (Jose Carlos Ruiz) she seeks him out again. Finding the son she hopes he can help which he reluctantly does.
Now I can't spend a lot of time telling about the plot without giving away a lot of the wonderful twists and turns of this film. Every character is tied to the plot in a meaningful way. As a script is it really well written, but may suffer from being so well tied together that its all too neat and tidy. Now I liked this, the police chief and rival curandero play equally important part in the script other than to be counters to the main characters. Its well done in this way where we see as the film goes on that the connections between the characters also grow and fill in every possible detail of the story.
Carlos and Magdalena are connected through the real magic that the elder Don Carlos performed on the child Magdalena and witnessed by Carlos as a boy. That magic ties into the connection of Castaneda to Magdalena in such an unexpected way. Her bosses actions tie into the case and her connections to Castaneda. Carlos and his rival Alex meet in the story and we learn that the latter was a student of Don Carlos but he has been pulled to the side of the evil magic. Don Carlos himself is a known and respected curandero and his influence is not only known by Castaneda but those who are around him. In the end is a bigger story of an evil man looking for imortality, a younger man finding the power of good inside him and the continuing battle raging in the world between good and evil.
I see that the movie only rates at about 5.1 on the IMDB site but only has three reviews. With one being a 1 star job pulling down the two good reviews, I guess you can't please all the people all the time. I found the film completely enjoyable. Not particularly scary but certainly very engaging. The director Eduardo Rodriguez does a fine job with the flashes of gore and integrating the visions of the curandero into the film. What starts out as little gory flashes of pain and suffering that Carlos sees when near crime scenes steadily grow as he embraces his role as spiritual champion of good. We are privileged to be introduced to the world of these psychics, who see bit of the world that live in the shadows of our souls. They when they choose can shine a light on us and in turn either help or leave us hindered by those corners of ourselves.
If there is a weak area in the picture I would go with the use of musical cheap scares, I have never been a big fan of strong musical noises to get reactions. I find subtle undertones and themes that accompany the pictures are more interesting the the louder da da daaaaah approach. It is a personal preference but I was put off at time by the music that felt a bit too manipulative. The special effects are displayed well throughout this film, noiw not all the flashes of gory scenes made a lot of sense but I think they were intended to set a dark mood more than to tell the story. They did do that in spades, and I particularly liked the market scene where we are seeing Magdalena and the world through the eyes of the curandero.
So if you are looking for a tightly written cop thriller packed full of the supernatural this is the picture for you.PS The room 217 reference was not missed by me.