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Genre: Horror.

Director: Cynthia Garcia Williams.

Actors: Nicci Bates. David Jofre. Hannah Zamora.

Seen at: Slamdance Film Festival 2024.


"A mother refuses to discipline her misbehaved child, opens the door for a visit from El Cucuy, and pays the ultimate price for her indifference."


With the Legend of El Cucuy short, filmmaker Cynthia Garcia Williams combines two of horror’s finest elements: New World folklore and a spoiled child. Individually, both are terrifying enough. Williams blends the two together in a story that is clever and fun - but with a little added time, could have been hella scarier.


Williams standardizes the el Cucuy/el Coco myth down to a routine boogeyman who preys on bad children. What sort of bad children? Well, Isabel (the adorable Obriella Witron), a rude and spoiled girl, takes the cake. But, is Isabel truly bad - or the result of her permissive parents? Williams poses that question in her script, but el Cucuy certainly does not give a damn - only damnation. 


Isabel’s mother Laura (Diana Sanchez), positions her daughter to pave her own path - one that is full of coloring, pizza, and no homework. (Actually, that sounds like paradise.) Carlos (Effie Cacarnakis), as el jefe de familia, tries to set the women in his life right. But in doing so, conjures the haunted soul of El Cucuy (David Jofre). 


Trouble is soon brewing - but does not become overly threatening. In fact, the tone of the short film easily has one believe that Isabel’s teacher poses more of a threat than the mist-enshrouded demon.


Williams has fun with the Isabel-Laura dynamic and mirrors such in the El Cucuy origin tale. Yet El Cucuy’s presence is brief and the horror too sudden. Legend of El Cucuy needed the fear to build and to make that helplessness tangible. Williams’ short looks great but needs a grander shock to conclude the narrative. Not only would building the story help with the tension but Williams’ story and talents deserve a larger landscape. 


Cynthia Garcia Williams, after all, is scary good.

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