Saturday, October 6, 2012

Days of Halloween Redux: Bajo la Sal

2008, Mario Muñoz -- download

Bajo la Sal or Under the Salt was out first, but probably not last, mistake of this season.  Not because it wasn't a very good movie (that actually doesn't a mistake make) but because it was more a crime thriller than a horror or Halloween related movie.  It had some very creepy elements but for the most part it was a cop hunts spree killer movie, albeit a pretty decent one.

Movies about a policeman hunting down a criminal have a familiar feel to them, no matter where they are shot or placed.  But when they choose an interesting locale, say the salt flats in north west mexico, it adds a bit of something to the plot.  Santa Rosa de la Sal is a town where everything is related to the collection of the salt, an industry town far from the capital.  She's a rundown little place with a single diner, a single high school and a brothel on the edge of town that people don't acknowledge but everyone knows is there.   The local police chief needs to ask the capital for help when a crime happens that tasks his meager resources, but he doesn't often get the help he needs.  Therefore he welcomes Commander Trujillo as an answer to his prayers, for he has been dealing with the disappearance and deaths of a number of young women.

I like when the locale as as much a characters as the people and this movie gives us a great place, but unfortunately drops that almost immediately.  The small town sits in the background as Trujillo, a grizzled old cop in the midst of a scandal, does the usual investigating that his old friend the police chief seems incapable of.  Meanwhile, the highlight of the movie is actually the creepy son of the local coroner / undertaker.  He's a goth/emo kid who makes stop-motion slasher flicks with his home video camera.  He gets mixed up in the investigation when the girl he moons over is connected to the murders. But like the town's tenuous connection to the story, his predilections are also unfortunately barely used.  The story decides to play out as an understated murder mystery that is familiar, well told but not very compelling.  Shame, as it could have done more, with the salt flats and with the creepy kid.