It’s an admirable thing for first-generation Americans, now raising their own kids, to seek to avoid the traumas imposed upon them by harsher parents. Parents who had carried ideas about bringing up children from a less forgiving culture. In the film’s opening scene, we see Laura chastising a teacher for her seemingly outdated teaching methods. For a moment, we are on Laura’s side; after all, our generation has moved past the methods of teaching and parenting like spanking and scare tactics. But that moment of siding with Laura is incredibly short-lived as she quickly proves to be a deeply unlikable woman who spoils her daughter rotten, creating a little monster.
“El Cucuy (is a) boogey-man who preys on misbehaving children.”
The monster in question is Isabel, the most spoiled movie child since Veruca Salt. In trying to avoid the overbearingness of her own upbringing, Laura gives Isabel everything she wants and folds to temper tantrums with a smile. Of course, there is a much more literal monster in the film, the titular El Cucuy. For gringos like me, he’s explained as a boogeyman who preys on misbehaving children. In a great segment, the girl’s father introduces that charming devil and the movie’s only likable character, Carlos. Arguably, the best point in the film is that it shifts style (and aspect ratio) to provide some old-school horror.
Those who sat in the dark and watched this at Slamdance might as well have been sitting around a campfire. The film, with its dark ambiance and creepy music, manages to feel like a ghost story told over a crackling flame. It’s genuinely spooky in a pretty fun way, with a great climax I won’t spoil here.
Parenting is tough; there’s no doubt about that, and no one wants to grow up to be their mom and dad. But Legend of El Cucuy warns us that if we try to go too far in the exact opposite direction from our authoritarian parents, we might just be finding all new ways to mess the next generation up.
"…most spoiled movie child since Veruca Salt."