In 1939, Dorothy Gale stepped out through the doorway of her sepia-tinted home and into a new life in Technicolor. The poly-patterned, psychedelic, swirling spectacle of Oz was an alien and exhilarating experience. The Wizard of Oz wasn’t Hollywood’s first colour film, but none previous had so unforgettably introduced its audience to the giddy pleasures of saturation. It must have been like living on bread and water for months and then suddenly gorging on a vat’s worth of Skittles. When Dorothy returned to her monochrome reality at the film’s end, it was clear that for the audience as for her things would never be seen in the same way again.
An enormous new realm of aesthetic possibility had been opened, and it wasn’t long before black-and-white became the exception. Nearly a century on, though, it seems American cinema is tiring of colour: the typical Hollywood film (especially, though not exclusively, in the action/horror/sci-fi arena) is grey, steely, burnished, washed-out. What happened?
Take, for example, 2005’s impressively dull Curandero: Dawn of the Demon. We might as well be back inside Dorothy’s house only not quite. Refusing to commit to the powerful simplicity of sepia or black-and-white, Curandero’s photographer Jaime Reynoso adds just enough tinge to the palette for it to qualify as a colour film’ in the same way a glass of 51% orange juice and 49% water might qualify as very weak orange juice’. The result is grim, muddy and uninteresting to look at.
Ironic, then, that the blandness of the colour scheme is by far the most distinctive thing about Curandero. It’s the only hint that anything approaching an artistic decision has been taken; elsewhere, the film is completely anonymous, without any trace of an auteur sensibility. Anyone attracted by the Robert Rodriguez presents’ tag (director Eduardo is no relation, incidentally) is going to be bitterly disappointed.
The film plods through a series of cliché vignettes, glued together by the presence of sadly wooden lead actor Carlos Gallardo (previously the great El Mariachi), who plays a Curendero (shaman) investigating the supernatural Mexican underworld at the behest of federal agent Magdelana (Gizeht Galatea, probably the best thing about the film). To be honest, I’ve seen better episodes of CSI. With no sense of humour, the film is a slog even at a relatively slim 90 minutes. Shot in 2005, it could as easily have been made this year, or a decade and a half ago. It can be safely ignored.
Overall Verdict: Surely even die-hard horror fans would prefer to revisit Victor Fleming’s exuberant 1939 musical masterpiece The Wizard of Oz than watch this!
Reviewer: Tom René