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.
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Alex Mathis (Greg Grunberg) is a big ass exterminator; he’s good at his job, but he also wants more than he has. He just can’t figure out quite how to get it. He’s about to find out, however, when fate and ridiculously ineffective soldiers drop a Big Ass Spider on the City of Angels.
Really, it’s all up there in the title; a big ass spider movie by any other name would still just be a big ass spider movie and director Mike Mendez knows that. He doesn’t even make a pretense of trying to take his subject seriously - going straight for fun without crossing the line to camp. It’s a difficult dance at best, but Mendez treads it very carefully.
Mostly because he’s got a cast who knows exactly the effect he’s going for and is ready to play along. And none more so than Grunberg himself, perfectly cast as a younger version of John Goodman’s Arachnophobia character, filled with fast talk and bravado and just enough competence to back it up. Grunberg is in pretty much the same spot, appearing as he does in almost every scene. It takes just the right mix of charm and skill to carry a film. Yeah, it’s a movie called Big Ass Spider, but it’s got to be done and carry it he does.
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Even if you’re not a fan of the genre, you probably at least recognize the name Amityville and associate it with horror.
Published in 1977, "The Amityville Horror" by Jay Anson took the country by storm. The story of the Lutzes demonic experiences in their Long Island home has had a huge cultural impact, spawning a storm of media frenzy, paranormal investigations, legal controversy, and a series of horror movies that span from 1979 to current day and now Eric Walter has finally got Danny Lutz to tell his side of the story.
Just a brief history lesson for any who didn’t know (and let’s not forget, this is non-fiction): The house located at 112 Ocean Avenue in suburban Amityville was the site of a grisly murder spree. Ronald DeFeo Jr. murdered all six members of his immediate family in one evening, while they were sleeping, shooting them face down in their beds. 13 months later, George and Kathy Lutz moved in with their three kids. After just 27 days, they moved out, claiming that they couldn’t handle the amount of demonic and ghostly presence in the house. The house became a new mecca for paranormal enthusiasts but no other owner has ever experienced the phenomena that the Lutzes did. Flash forward to now. Daniel Lutz is in his 50s and for the first time he has decided to tell his side of the story in front of the camera.
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Even though South by SouthWest is primarily a film, music and interactive festival, television has started to creep in and A&E decided to use it as the venue to launch their new horror-drama Bates Motel which premieres on Monday, March 18 at 10PM.
Bates Motel follows in the footsteps of the latest TV horror trend behind FX's American Horror Story and AMC's The Walking Dead although it's also treading on dangerous ground by trying to create a prequel to the Alfred Hitchcock Psycho and the Norman Bates character as personified by Anthony Perkins. The intention of the series is to show Norman and his mother, as played by Freddie Highmore and Vera Farmiga, during their early days which ultimately lead up to how we find them in Psycho.
On Monday morning, March 11th, A&E screened the first of what's going to be a ten-episode season, which opens with Freddie Highmore's Norman Bates discovering his father has died, so his mother Norma (played by Vera Farmiga) buys the Seafairer Motel (sic) and the classic old house up in the hills as they try to settle into a new life after his father's death. Norman just wants to earn his mother's love and affection, which isn't something that's easily attained.
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Somewhere up in the hills is a group of true believers - believers in God and sin testing themselves to show their purity. Old fashioned snake handlers, with no love or tolerance for the outside world. Lonely, secretive bartender Charlotte's (Emma Greenwell) sister has disappeared up there somewhere, though, and she and her reluctant companion (Brendan McCarthy) are going to find out where.
Fans of the Butcher Brothers could certainly expect to be forgiven for expecting a blood-soaked romp of crazy cult killing and mad rituals out such a set up. For his newest film, co-writer/director Mitchell Altieri (one half of the Butcher Brother team) has gone a far more meditative, character driven route, however. And if the fit isn't exactly good here, there are enough suggestions at the edges that he will be getting better with future films.
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The success of the low budget V/H/S last year proved that the found footage horror genre is a great way to do a horror anthology, with the style itself linking vignettes together in a way that doesn't require any other explanation. It had its problems but it also had a lot of potential if the right group of people could be put together to make it work.
The producers have done just that for V/H/S/2, gathering together a talented group of horror filmmakers who have taken the concept and put as much thought and cleverness into it as they could. The results speak volumes.
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We've all heard the story before. There's a cabin in the woods, off the beaten path. It's alone and isolated - the perfect place for some kids looking to get away from it all. Little do they know that something dark and hideous is lurking in those woods.
It's not just because this is a remake of Sam Raimi's Evil Dead that we know this story. It's the basis for more scary campfire stories and '80s horror movies than you can shake a sharpened, gore-drenched stick at. As horror plots go, it's somewhere up there with "it was a dark and stormy night." It's not for nothing that the original Evil Dead picked that particular cliché to build its story around. There is little quite as entertaining as the familiar doing what you expect exactly as you expect it. Raimi and company back in the 1980s counted on that fact to make their first feature financially successful (a film's primary goal after all). Raimi and company in 2013 are still counting on that fact.
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Kids are frightening. That at least partially explains why they so often are an evil force in horror movies. Far more terrifying than a child is a huge group of children. A few adults are powerless against a few dozen kids. Come Out and Play, a remake of the 1976 Spanish shocker El Juego De Niños (Who Can Kill a Child?), effectively mines the disturbing notion of children committing horrific acts of violence.
Beth (Vinessa Shaw) and Francis (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) are on a peaceful vacation in Mexico when Francis decides he wants them to visit a secluded island. He finds a man willing to rent them a boat and the next morning the couple arrives to find a serene but empty island. There is no one around, and as they explore you’re reminded how eerie even a beautiful place can be in certain circumstances.
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