I am fascinated by vampiric or demonic legends from cultures outside of the traditional European lore. Each mythical creature deserves its own movie, but when Hollywood fails to deliver we can always rely on independent filmmakers to take the risk and give these beasts a new cinematic life in some form or another. Renegade Creative’s The Curse of La Patasola is based on the South American succubus-like monster, whose name literally translates to “one-legged.” It’s the debut feature for AJ Jones, who co-wrote the script with Shaun Mathis. Jones also stars as one of the leads alongside his wife and producer Gillie Jones.
Two couples drive into the woods for a weekend of fishing and camping, with a Chekhov’s flare gun in their glove department. Each of the four are unique and flawed in their own way. Naomi (Najah Bradley, Welcome to the Blumhouse: Black Box) is fiery and outspoken, sometimes to a fault. Her boyfriend James (Patrick R. Walker, The Resident), on the other hand, is kind but a bit of a pushover. Her friend Sarah (Gillie Jones) is naive, but has a pure heart, whereas her husband Daniel (AJ Jones) is brutish and inconsiderate. Most of the car ride is spent with Naomi and Daniel arguing about feminism and traditional gender roles, indicating that this camping trip will be far from relaxing.
“…we can always rely on independent filmmakers to take the risk and give these [mythical creaturues] a new cinematic life.”
Once their tents are set up, the friends sit around the campfire and tell ghost stories. When it’s time for Naomi to tell a story, she recounts a legend that her Colombian grandmother had told her as a child, about a beautiful woman who was caught cheating on her husband, so he cut off her leg. She then escaped into the jungle, vowing revenge on all men for centuries to come.
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Legend has it that she appears to hunters at night as her once beautiful self, calling out to them to help her. Once she lures the men deep into the forest like a siren, she takes on a hideous vampiric form and devours them. Only those who are faithful to their wives are free from her curse. Throughout her story, Naomi refuses to say the name the monster out loud, because she claims saying it will invite her presence (“like Candyman?” remarks James). But Daniel eggs her on, forcing her to whisper the words “La Patasola…” You can probably guess what happens from there.
Due to the film’s low budget, most of the special effects are reserved for the last ten minutes of the movie. Up until then, it’s up to these four actors to build the tension and stoke fear in what cannot be revealed just yet. Think of it as Jaws, except in a forest and if the shark first appeared as a helpless woman. The situation is further exacerbated by the disastrous relationship troubles between the two couples. For the most part, I think the actors were able to pull off this tension building in a believable way, especially Patrick Walker and Gillie Jones.
I found it funny that AJ Jones wrote his character as the biggest asshole of the bunch. Daniel oozes toxic masculinity, is obsessed with proving his manhood, and prides himself on being the “protector and provider” of the relationship, even though he’s unemployed and has been freeloading off of Sarah for years.
To be honest, the final form of La Patasola looked a bit goofy to me, but in an ’80s horror sort of way (if you need an idea, you can refer to one of the two posters currently circulating online), which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Somewhat obscured in darkness, I couldn’t tell if the monster was a prosthetic or CGI, or combination of both. Still, for an independent studio putting out its first feature, it’s passable, though I think there’s more merit in the scenes leading up to the big reveal.
La Patasola served as a cautionary tale for both men and women of the past to think twice before cheating on their spouses. However, by unearthing the legend and setting it in the modern-day, it can be used as a lens to view modern cultural issues. What’s the next monster of South American folklore that will get its cinematic rebirth? I’m fingers crossed for something featuring El Duende, mischievous gnome-like creatures that live inside the walls of people’s homes and wreak havoc.
“…by unearthing the legend and setting it in the modern-day, it can be used as a lens to view modern cultural issues.”
Renegade Creative’s The Curse of La Patasola is available on VOD and On Demand beginning January 14th. Let us know which South American monster you think deserves its own movie over on Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, and in the official Nightmare on Film Street Discord. Not a social media fan? Get more horror delivered straight to your inbox by joining the Neighbourhood Watch Newsletter.