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Slamdance Film Review: Legend of El Cucuy

Film Reviews

Slamdance Film Review: Legend of El Cucuy
Director: Cynthia Garcia Williams

Based on Latin folklore, Legend of El Cucuy tells the story of a modern family challenging disciplinary parenting norms only to face the wrath of El Cucuy, a demon that comes for the most deviant children in the night. In its fourteen-minute runtime, this film explores the intersection of mythology and modern parenting choices. 

As Cynthia Garcia Williams’ fifth film as both writer and director, Legend of El Cucuy is a sleek and clean short that manages the time between the backstory of the demonic being and the modern family’s experience well—the film doesn’t lean too heavily in one direction or the other. It does feel like the film is setting up a longer story given the strong character development in the short time we get, but little development of the horror elements of the story. This film isn’t anchored in a frightening tone as much as it focuses on the family dynamic and the daughter’s behavioral challenges. I would’ve loved to have seen a bit more time committed to the horror atmosphere of the film for a more consistent tone and build up to the frightening climax. 

Diana Sanchez’s portrayal of an insistently permissive and intense mother is persuasive enough that it doesn’t seem too far fetched for her character’s husband to go along with her extreme parenting style, even though it seems to be at odds with his own expectations at times. 

The Legend of El Cucuy took me back to the more lighthearted horror I enjoyed as kid such as Goosebumps and Are You Afraid of the Dark? by introducing scary elements in a small, palatable package that doesn’t take itself too seriously and isn’t out to terrify viewers. I’ll definitely be watching this with my own kids, after all, every kid should have a healthy fear of El Cucuy and what can happen when you misbehave. –Ben Trentelman

Read more of SLUG‘s comprehensive coverage of the 2024 Slamdance Film Festival.