The Curse of La Patasola – a feature film review by Andrew Buckner
The Curse of La Patasola (2022), the debut feature from director AJ Jones, is a garden variety take on the title-referenced vampiric myth of Amazonian folklore. It opens with an intriguing sequence set in 19th century Southern Colombia. Like the rest of the brief eighty-four-minute affair, this segment smartly leaves much to the imagination. Moreover, the project has an engaging concluding fifteen minutes. This tense section also benefits from a glimpse of the demonic form of La Patasola in full. The sight of which is impressive.
Regardless, the bulk of the picture is hindered by off-putting, stereotypical personas and same said conversations. Most of which result in disagreements among our small cast. There are speeches throughout involving the patriarchy, female empowerment, and gender roles. These are meant to offer insight into the minds of the four leads in Jones’ horror outing. Yet, the script from co-authors Shaun Mathis and Jones doesn’t give them anything particularly new to say about these thoughtful subjects. Though the arguments do provide a necessary element to the plot which brings La Patasola into the narrative, these disputes are too cloying to create anything other than tedium. Since these bits craft a significant portion of the runtime, it is a problem the movie can never overcome.
The story revolves around two couples with relationship issues. During a trip to the woods, these concerns surface and morph into unanticipated situations. After the tale of La Patasola is passed down one night during a routine campfire stretch, the group is plagued by eerie occurrences which suggest her presence. The longer this goes on the more the determination to endure, virtue, and affiliations within the party are tested.
Though the premise at the heart of the account is familiar, it is promising. Notwithstanding, one of the major difficulties the exercise faces is that everything that transpires within this framework is erected from a painfully formulaic structure. Though the first half suffers at the hand of its dialogue and serviceably developed characterizations, the rest of the endeavor has some intermittently captivating scenes of otherworldly suspense. This is exemplified through the classic image of a potentially malevolent shadow forming from outside a tent. It is nicely fashioned in this later stretch. There are simply just not enough of these nail-biting episodes by the time the well-done closing credits roll.
On the positive side, the effort employs strong performances from Gillie Jones as Sarah, Najah Bradley as Naomi, and Luciana Faulhaber as La Patasola. AJ Jones is realistic as Daniel. Patrick R. Walker is solid as James. Additionally, the music from Kelsey Woods is atmospheric and immersive. The editing from Walker Whited is proficient. The cinematography from Bradley Hayes lushly demonstrates the natural beauty of its outdoors location. Furthermore, the visual effects from Darion D’Anjou are a highlight. Relatedly, the excursion goes for a more subtle approach. In so doing, these graphic components are not overused. It is one of the various technical achievements that are utilized in favor of the production.
Further brightened by superb output from the make-up department and appropriately straightforward direction from Jones, The Curse of La Patasola is a fair, but ultimately forgettable, undertaking. It isn’t without its moments, but it fails to evoke the continually dread-infused tone required to generate a genuinely memorable attempt. There are pops of invention. For instance, the marvelous drawings of La Patasola spied in the resplendent commencing credits. They slightly diminish such faults. There are frequent lulls in the action. Still, Jones admirably never forgets the central figures which propel the activity. Though this attribute presents its own challenges for the venture, this aspect alone is worthy of note for it is the stalwart backbone of nearly every effective genre showcase.
Rating: **1/2 out of *****