THE CURSE OF EL CHARRO
Directed by Rich Ragsdale
Produced by Ryan Johnson Kevin Ragsdale
Written by Ryan Johnson
Director of Photograpy Jacques Haitkin
Music by Rich Ragsdale
Cast: Mia Hoyos, Heidi Androl, Kathryn Taylor, KellyDawn Malloy, Andrew Bryniarski
2005/91 mins/Color/Dolby Digital 5.1
1.78:1 anamorphic/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from the Paramount Home Entertainment DVD
THE CURSE OF EL CHARRO opens on board The Love Boat as regular guest Charo and Captain Stubing (Gavin MacLeod) are arguing over the correct pronunciation of the word "chimichanga". Fed up with Stubing’s ignorance (and his slightly racist comments), Charo places a curse on the entire ship and its passengers. (I wasn’t sure how to spell "cuchi-cuchi!" and just as I Googled this, my wife walked in and now we’re in therapy.)
OK, that story has nothing to do with THE CURSE OF EL CHARRO, but it would have been more interesting than the actual movie.
Drew Mia stars in THE CURSE OF EL CHARRO as Maria, a disturbed young woman who is still haunted by her sister’s suicide. Her roommate, Christina (Heidi Androl), decides that Maria should participate in a road-trip to Arizona, along with Tanya (Kathryn Taylor) and Rose (KellyDawn Malloy) (both of whom hate Maria). Maria, who is very withdrawn and shy, is hesitant at first, but Christina convinces her to go. So, the foursome head for Arizona. Along the way, they encounter an odd cop and an even odder bar. Once they arrive at Christina’s uncle’s house in Arizona, Maria begins to have strange visions. These hallucinations come to a head when a painting held by a vagrant shows Maria that years ago, a powerful and evil man was denied his true love and that he swore to wipe out her entire bloodline. That man was El Charro (Andrew Bryniarski), and (of course), Maria is a descendent of the woman who spurned him. Now, Maria and her friends, including several boys who have joined the party, are in danger as the ghost (zombie?) of El Charro comes for revenge.
When a flashback is the coolest part of a movie (and that movie isn’t THE HILLS HAVE EYES II), you know you’re in trouble. Director Rich Ragsdale admits to being a fan of silent films and German expressionism and his use of these techniques in the flashback where Maria leans the legend of El Charro is very well-done. Unfortunately, it’s the only interesting thing in what is essentially a pointless movie.
THE CURSE OF EL CHARRO is one of those movies that isn’t a mystery or a David Lych-type headscratcher, but it still leaves the audience with many more questions than answers. At the beginning of the film, Maria sees a priest for counseling. When she leaves his office, he calls the Monsignor as he’s concerned about her symptoms. And this is never brought up again. Why did Maria’s sister kill herself? Why would Maria even get in the car, much less travel, with two of the biggest bitches ever seen on film, both of whom admit to hating her...to her face! Yes, I get the idea that the weird bar was a religious reference, but did we have to sit through all of that awful song? If Maria is easily upset, depressed, and the relative of someone who recently committed suicide, why did they put her in the guest house all by herself? And my biggest question -- If El Charro has been waiting for Maria to come to Arizona so that he can kill her, why does he kill the rest of the cast -- including one character who never even meets Maria?
Thanks to the presence of veteran cinematographer Jacques Haitkin (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET), THE CURSE OF EL CHARRO has a professional look, but otherwise the movie is a mess. All of the characters are annoying, and it’s impossible to relate to any of them. The only character who is the least bit appealing is Christina, and I kept thinking, “She looks too old to be in college.” El Charro isn’t the least bit scary, nor is his appearance particularly striking, as he’s simply a guy in a cowboy hat, a baja, and a mask that looks like it came from Halloween Express at the mall. The movie has no scares or suspense and the gore is the standard throat-slashings and what-not. And when a movie whips out a surprising and unnecessary lesbian sex scene during the last 15 minutes, you know that it’s desperate to hold our attention.
Again, the flashback scene (and the opening credits) are very nice. Maybe director Rich Ragsdale should have shot the entire film in a silent film look style. But, as it stands, THE CURSE OF EL CHARRO is simply a tired slasher film which tries to pawn off a Mexican fable as a unique twist. It’s not. We are merely treated to the same annoying characters who inhabit all of these films and even seeing them die brings little satisfaction. Save the money that you would have spent renting THE CURSE OF EL CHARRO to buy a #11 combo at your favorite local Mexican restaurant.
THE CURSE OF EL CHARRO wanders across the desert to DVD courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film is letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is anamorphic. The movie was shot on HD Video (I think), so the image shows no grain, but an abundance of artifacting is present on the transfer. When the image goes black, it looks as if thousands of microscopic organisms are swimming across the screen. Speaking of which, some of the nighttime scenes are overly dark. The colors are good, with the reds being especially noticeable. The DVD features a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track -- which is not the default track. This track suffers from some problems, as the dialogue is often muffled and muted, while the sound effects, especially the “jump stings” are quite loud. This uneven dynamic range will most likely have you reaching for the remote. The surround sound effects are OK, but I didn’t notice any outstanding bass effects.
The DVD contains a smattering of extras. “The Making of THE CURSE OF EL CHARRO” is a 22-minute featurette where producers Kevin Ragsdale and Ryan Johnson, along with director Rich Ragsdale talk about the development of the film. This trio, along with the cast, then proceed to describe how the film was cast and shooting began within a week without a completed script. Is this really something that they should admit? The segment looks at the cast, guest stars, sound and music. And we’re presented with topless ADR. Really? Is that how low we’ve sunk? Rich Ragsdale’s short film “Into Something Rich and Strange” is offered here and it’s very reminiscent of the flashback in the film. The last extra is a PHOTO GALLERY.
This Film Features:
Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2006. ©