José Luis Gutierrez directs a promising genre exercise that disappoints.
It’s well documented that violence against women and femicides are part of Mexico’s terrible reality.
At one point in José Luis Gutierrez’s De las muertas, a 2016 Mexican thriller that is finally having its commercial release, we see the main couple worried for the safety of their young daughters, since some other girls of the community have been brutally murdered.
This evident fear is something that, sadly, has become an everyday thing here in Mexico, and by bringing that to the big screen, De las muertas is certainly topical. However, it’s also a sort of wasted opportunity to mix genre elements and sociopolitical commentary of real relevance.
To be fair, the movie presents itself since the beginning as a pure genre effort, with the following setting: a journalist (Hector Kotsifakis) is set to do an interview with a family man and teacher (Tomás Rojas) who has been detained and accused of the murder of several teenage girls from the school were he worked. The prisoner claims innocence and the journalist becomes his last opportunity to tell his own version of the story before hearing the final sentence.
The face-to-face conversation promises enough revelations to change the mind of the journo, who meets for the first time his interviewee firmly thinking that he’s the serial killer. The suspect’s version of the case is, as expected, one-sided, feeling almost like a far too simplistic exposure of the corrupt authorities, with the police chief in charge of the investigation (Enrique Arreola) acting as an unidimensional and always hostile “villain.” Hence the encounters between the accused and the journalist are not that intriguing and by the end of the interview, all the pieces easily indicate that the real murderer is elsewhere.
Is De las muertas a critique of the injustice and impunity in Mexico? I could force my way into that thought, but it’s really impossible to ignore that, as a thriller and above all, the movie is trying to shock the audience. On the paper there’s nothing bad about said attempt, but the execution is so lazy that it actually comes together with the typical big, last-minute plot twist that changes everything. A promising genre exercise, with a violent background that relates to Mexico’s undeniable present, culminates in the tired and unsurprising thriller in which nothing is as it seems and everything is part of a master plan.