Tuesday, March 2, 2021

In short: Origin Unknown (2020)

Original title: Sin Origen

Cartel higher up Pedro (Daniel Martínez) has retreated into a highly fortified house with his family, guarded by high tech, a small army, as well as his right hand-men, the brothers Alan (Horacio Garcia Rojas) and Erik (Ramón Medina). Pedro is in the process of extracting himself from the drug business, but he’s afraid that the cartel head he is working for will answer his wish with assassination instead of a nice gold watch. This night is apparently the decisive one when it comes to his survival.

Things turn rather stranger than a simple assassination attempt – though not less violent – when a little girl named Lina (Paulina Gil) suddenly and inexplicably makes it onto the mansion grounds. Pedro takes her into the house, but then all hell breaks loose: his man are quickly slaughtered by a small group of women and men dressed up like crosses between cast members of TV’s Arrow and TV’s Vikings wielding crossbows and traditional melee weapons. Much sooner than you’d expect, Pedro, his family and Alan are the only survivors in the high-tech mansion on lock-down, with the strange killers besieging them.

That’s not going to be the night’s only problem: it turns out Lina is the actual aim of the attack. Oh, and she’s a vampire.

Despite some dubious costume design – the vampire hunting assholes really look like grimdark cosplayers and the dress sense of the vampires isn’t any better – Rigoberto Castañeda’s Sin Origen is a fun low budget movie that turns the very basic idea of a fight between narcos, vampire hunters and vampires into a fun, and satisfying little movie.

Unlike I’d expected from the set-up, the film is surprisingly interested in characterisation and proper character motivation, not going terribly deep but deep enough to make characters sympathetic and their actions feel rooted in a little more than the fact that they are scripted thusly. Everyone inside of the house is driven by ideas of family, trying to protect – or avenge – their loved ones, with our little vampire kid as a wild card. In a somewhat original twist, it’s the vampire hunters who are the worst among a bunch of characters with dubious morals here, slaughtering non-vampires wholesale, and showing not the slightest compunction when it comes to violence towards innocents. These guys are total pricks, and so work, in classic siege movie fashion, more as a force of nature than human counterparts to the characters they threaten.

Castañeda is really good with the siege movie basics, building up threats, plans and counter-plans, escalating the tension with just the right pacing. He’s also never forgetting his film’s thematic emphasis on families and what people are willing to give up to protect them; again, it’s not an original argument or idea, but the film’s portrayal and use of it always makes sense in the context of the plot and provides humanity to what could end up being only a series of (small, because this is not a big movie) action set pieces.

It’s such a neatly focussed film, without pretensions, but actually very good at doing the things it sets out to do as an action and horror movie. Which, as my imaginary readers know, is exactly the sort of thing I like.

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