Movies From the Black Lagoon: Borderland
Movies From the Black Lagoon
"Scarface" meets "Hostel" in this edgy south of the border set chiller that arrived on DVD last March as part of the "After Dark Horrorfest". The story opens with a tense scene that finds two Hispanic detectives bursting into a remote dwelling in search of a drug lord named Santillan. The place appears to be deserted and houses all manner of creepy evidence that indicates the previous tenants wouldn't be welcome at your annual block party. Said detritus includes blood-spattered floors, dead animals, and human teeth in the fireplace. If all of that were not bad enough it also turns out that the tenants are still very much on the scene as they spring out of the shadows and attack. The ensuing battle is short lived and sees one of the "policia" survive though that's a mixed blessing as he also bears witness to the death by dismemberment that is inflicted on his bound partner.
Next the film hits a dull patch that almost promises that the rest of the film is gonna make like a Hoover product. We are introduced to three well-to-do young men who are heading off to Mexico to celebrate their graduation from college. The trio includes Ed, who is unsure about going to grad school and drawn to humanitarian causes; Phil, a theology major headed for the ministry, and Henry, a macho jerk who despises the poor and lives for his next buzz. For ten minutes we watch these pampered preppies drink tequila and chase skirts, but the movie abruptly switches gears when Phil is nabbed by some of the thugs who appeared in the opening scene.
When the law turns out to be less than sympathetic to a pair of over-privileged "Americanos", Ed and Henry grow some integrity and begin searching for their pal on their own - with the aid of local barmaid Valeria. While they search we also get to drop in on Phil who has been chained up in a sweaty shack where he is looked after by a zoned-out thug, and fellow Texan named Randall, who sings the praises of Santillan. We eventually meet the man of the hour and he's a solid villain who sports a load of tats, tailored clothes, and an uncanny belief that sacrificing human victims will please the dark gods who will then make his drug mules invisible to border guards.
Eventually the tourist hook up with Ulisies (the surviving cop from the opening) and the group decides to take on the bad guys on their own turf. The results are mixed and most of the characters don't make it to the end credits, but it is a decent showdown that echoes the work of Sam Peckinpah and, best of all, was actually inspired by true events.
It's obvious that the success of "Hostel" inspired this movie, but it stakes out its own territory and should appeal to fans of crime dramas and horror fans alike. The Mexican scenery is well rendered and a game cast helps keep this one on the rails. Rider String (Cabin Fever) emotes well as Phil, but the real surprise here is the affable Sean Astin (Sam Gamgee in "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy) who is cast as the goonish Randall. He's pretty good here though the best role goes to Beto Cuevas, who has a field day as the charismatic and highly delusional Santillan. The only draw back is Ed who makes for a dull lead. It doesn't help that he's indecisive and poorly written, which is best illustrated by the following dialogue sample: Ed: "Since we crossed the border I don't feel like me anymore."
Valeria: "Who do you feel like?"
Believe it or not he actually gets Valeria to kiss him following that exchange, but she probably did it to shut him up. Henry turns out to be decent character and his showdown with the gang, set on the roof of an old hotel, is a highlight.
Best Line: "Papa wants a cop's eyes for his Nganga."
Tom Doty occasionally emerges from the Lagoon to check his e-mail. If you'd like to get a message to him, write to: firstname.lastname@example.org.