Curandero: Dawn of the Demon is an odd duck. A Spanish language film based in Mexico rich in Mexican culture, tradition and folklore, yet, filled with gallons of blood and crazy acid-trip type imagery.
The screenplay adapted by Robert Rodriguez (Planet Terror, Machete) and Eduardo Rordriguez, no relation to Robert, it has moments of brilliance with gritty action and above-average gore effects but the storyline drags and never really establishes a foothold of where it wants to go.
A curandero is a sort of white magic practitioner that deals with cleansing areas that have become cursed or deep in black magic. Carlos is the son of a famous curandero and is called into action by the Mexican City police department and Mexican federales when a major drug crime lord begins using black magic to take out his rivals and generally make a bloody mess of Mexico City.
This black magic takes many forms including leaving a bucket of miscellaneous parts in a police station, nailing a bunch of poor souls to the ceiling of a four-story building, chopping off the arm of a police dude in broad daylight, blood bursting eggs, a naked she-beast gnawing on elderly women in a street market,
As part of Carlos powers, whether he wants it or not, is to see the effects of the black magic after they have been perpetrated or during the present where he lives out the torture or killings in his own mind. The problem with Carlos is that hes a wimp. He doesnt want any of this. Hes way over his head and knows it. But one part of him wants to help the policia because of the wanton death thats happening and in some ways to prove that his life isnt worthless as a small time curator of meaningless tricks.
As the story goes on (and on) we get way too much of Carlos trying to find his redemption while having increasing visions of demons everywhere. Theres also a hint that maybe these arent really demons but just people on some bad weed or something. So Curandero jumps back and forth between supernatural imagery and gun fights in the middle of the street. Then it gets completely jumbled as any of the reasons for calling in the curandero in the first place get replaced with a strange plotline revolving the main female federale becoming the main reason behind the black magic outbreak.
The good news is that you can learn quite a bit about black magic in Curandero, including:
- Mexican mafia hires living organ donors that at a moment can be used to transplant a bid bad dude with a bad heart.
- You can use an egg to perform an exorcism and cleanse the soul.
- A chopped off finger is a great way to leave a calling card.
- The Vulcan nerve pinch actually works.
- Cockroaches taste like steak.
- A cheap Tijuana rosary can turn a demon back into a human in a few scant seconds.
- Clouds of smoke reflect bullets.
- Nearly every black magic affliction involves bleeding from the mouth.
So there are some unintentional comedic moments here.
Another bit of learning comes from the English dub on Curandero. Its horrible. It should be watched in Spanish language with subtitles. The voice acting is absolutely atrocious and whoever read the dialogue are about 20 years older than the characters we are seeing.