Morbido 2020 Review: SIN ORIGEN (ORIGIN UNKNOWN) Mexican Action Horror Flick Fails to Make a Big Screen Impression
Pedro is a drug runner looking to buy his way out of the drug trade. On the eve of his departure tensions and nerves are tight, despite his boasting that his home security system is state of the art. Two of Pedro’s lieutenants Erik and Alan have come to spend the night with him and his family, his children Lina and Beto, and their step-mom Francis. Then a young, sick girl, Lina, stumbles onto the property, whom they take into their home. She was being followed by a group of assassins, all wielding all manner of ancient swords and knives. Pedro locks down the house and the family prepares to fend off these deadly intruders.
Sin origen is a new Mexican action horror flick from director Rigoberto Castañeda and writer Michael Caissie. The premise is promising enough. A group of supernatural killers use ancient weapons to try to break into the fortified home of a drug dealer to assassinate a small girl.
Yet, the film disappoints because the attention to elements in this film other than horror feels scant and half-hearted and we think we know why. Castañeda and 2nd unit director Henry Bedwell, even writer Michael Caissie have worked more in television than they have in feature film. What does that mean? It means that they cannot break away from habits formed by working so long in television. Everything here feels made for television and you simply cannot get away with that when you’re working in the bigger space of theatrical.
It could have been that there were limitations set on Castañeda and his team. Limitations like time, that they only had so long to plan, develop and make this movie. Because everyone has worked so long in television and used to working with time constraints perhaps the story goes that he was hired to punch this movie out in a very short period of time. Time and time again you hear from actors working on television shows who are required to punch out an action scene and it is all choregraphed the day of the shoot. This is what it feels like happened here.
As a result the action is mildly acceptable and speaks enough of the language that you know what’s happening. But for real action fans they will find that the combat is clunky and awkward. Every piece of action on screen is shot for television. Shoot it tight. Shoot every motion in its own cut: throw, hit and land. Hide the limitations within the edit. This looks about as good as anything you’ll find in a syndicated sci-fi/genre show on CW or SyFy.
The one action element that Castañeda really, really likes in his film are the parkour elements he has put into it. These are shot at a wider angle as to capture all the action as the assassins scale Pedro’s house, trying to find a way inside. Those moments are cool, flawless and fluid. But save the action part of film they do not.
One does feel that Castañeda cares more about the horror elements than he does the action elements too. That's to be expected when you see that a large chunk of the television shows that he has worked on have been in the horror genre. The moments of Lila's origin and her ‘family’ are shot with a lot more care and a sense of romanticism. After the reveal of her true nature and more horror is called upon, it's okay. Nothing this film does really stretches the tropes but plays by its rules accordingly. At the same time the sacrifices made to ensure survival at the end of the film are laughable at best.
Then there are elements in the story early on that are largely forgotten for the rest of the story. The son is seen fiddling around with a Ouija board and it answers a question that he has, a precusor to Lila's arrival though he suspects someone else is talking to him from beyond. His step-mom says she encourages this kind of dabbling, but we figure fear takes over and who has time to wait for answer to your questions, one letter at a time. Ouija boards are not timesavers in a time of crisis.
Also, Castañeda seems to have completely forgotten that Pedro's daughter Lina is caught outside once the house has been shutdown. She simply disappears for a large majority of the film. There's no tension about her trying to get inside or stay away from these killers outside her home. There's no threat of her being found out and used as bait simply because she's out of sight and out of mind. What a lost opportunity.
All of these elements, lack therof or not enough attention paid to them, do not add up to a great experience. It would barely pass the muster if it were to play on television. To try to do so on the big screen was a mistep. One simply cannot take the lessons learned in television, punching out syndicated episodes week after next, and expect that framework to make a good movie. Sin origen respects the horror more than it does the action, but nor does it do anything to stretch that side of the film into something other than been there, done that territory. This was an average experience at best.
- Michael Caissie