Friday, May 9, 2008


For those of us who enjoy horror films, the Eight Films To Die For series has been a mixed blessing. It has increased the amount of product available, so we have more movies on DVD to pass our lonely nights. On the other hand, the quality of the movies has been, to put it charitably, low. Still, we horror freaks are an optimistic lot, and since I have already seen the worst movie ever made with The Invisible, there’s nowhere to go but up, and so I plopped down my $70 to buy this year’s set. First up is Borderland.

Set in Mexico, the movie is based on the Matamoros ritual killings of the late 80s, in which a drug smuggler killed a large number of people in human sacrifices so the gods would protect his product from customs officials, although most of the details are fictionalized. It starts off with the slow torture and murder of a Mexican policeman, shown in loving detail. This was not an auspicious beginning, as it looked like another torture porn Hostel-type movie. I have nothing against gore, and don’t have a weak stomach, but it has to be in service to the story, or its pointless.

The scene then shifts to South Texas, where best pals Ed (bound for Stanford), Henry (for Wharton. We know he’s weak of character because he wants to make money) and Phil (a religious virgin) are getting ready for a last blow-out before leaving for school. They are headed to Mexico for some drinkin’ and fornicatin’, apparently unaware that’s what you do at college anyway. Things look bad for Phil since, in a type of gender bias, female virgins tend to be the survivors of horror flicks, while male virgins inevitably get kakked.

Once in Mexico, they drink a little, make some lame attempts to get busy, buy an $80 hooker for Phil (Eliot Spitzer, you got gypped) and try some awkward male bonding. An evil fate is in store for them, however. It seems the local drug lord has been sacrificing the citizenry to get mystical protection for his shipments, and the last one was intercepted. Hmmm, he thinks, in what would be blatant racism if he weren’t Mexican himself, maybe it’s the cheap Mexican sacrifices that have been the problem. A nice gringo would work better. Bad news for one of our trio.

In due course, one of them is kidnapped after taking an innocent midnight stroll alone through the bad section of Matamoros, and the other two began to try to rescue him. There is an intriguing scene where one of the superstitious henchmen of the drug lord tries to execute one of the pair, but fails when his gun mysteriously will not fire. This screams Plot Point! But ultimately amounts to nothing.

Ultimately with the aid of a beautiful bartender from a strip joint, the forces of righteousness achieve a sort of closure.

Despite my snarky tone, the movie isn’t half bad. It’s a decent Americans-in-a-foreign-land suspense piece, and a solid way to pass an evening. It suffers a bit from forced moral reconsideration of the characters, as when the surviving gringo asks if he could shoot someone. “I think so,” he says slowly. “If I had to.” At this point, his two best friends have been tortured to death, and the drug psychos are trying to kill him and his girlfriend. In that situation, Ghandi would have capped their asses, and I found it a bit irritating that he wouldn’t get with the program. The movie also loses one point for casting a hobbit (Sean Astin), but gets it back through the disposition of said hobbit. (I hate hobbits. Call me racist if you like.) There is also a nice documentary on the real Matamoros slayings, if you like that sort of thing, and a useless one where everyone tells the director how great he is. The video transfer is adequate, although the sound is so muddy I occasionally had to turn on subtitles to be sure what the characters were saying. If this sounds good to you, give it a try.

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