By David Mayne
Directed By: Zev Berman
Starring: Sean Astin, Brian Presley, Jake Muxworth, Rider Strong, Damian Alcazar, Beto Cuevas, Martha Higareda
I don’t practice Santeria…
Every once in a while (more like all the time), I like to stay up late, enjoy a nice Beam on ice, and delve into whatever random horror offering my “streaming” movie service has to offer. On this particular service, there are 2 classes of film: Good and Bad. Under the “Bad” category, there are several sub-levels of fail, ranging from terrible-but-watchable, to Jesus Christ when will this thing end…no screw it, I’m turning it off. In a world where everyone has a movie camera in their hands, our screens and theaters are chock-full of abstract notions, misguided ideas, and cinematic experiments gone awry. Borderland falls somewhere into the upper crust of the “Bad” category. While entirely watchable and even sometimes mildly intriguing, the film suffers from a continual lack of any real build up or coherent character progression, with bad writing thrown in for good measure.
The setup is simple and cliché horror fare: Three recently graduated college buddies (Ed, Henry, and Phil) decide to mount up, dip down below the US/Mexico border, and have an alcohol-fueled, hookers and drugs extravaganza before heading off to begin their “grown-up” lives in the real world. Throwing caution to the wind, the trio head down and stop at the first flophouse in sight, ready to get the fiesta started. Ed (Presley) get eyes for the beautiful firecracker of a bartender, Valeria (Higareda), while Phil reluctantly hires a prostitute/mother, meanwhile Henry is simply dead-seat on getting obliterated. After a shared night of drinking, smoking, and oh yeah, shrooms, Phil decides to go revisit the prostitute he had met earlier, disappearing into the night. Awaking the next morning, with Phil nowhere in sight, Ed and Henry become instantly concerned, even visiting the local Police station to file a report.
The first thing that strikes you about Borderland is this: Mexico SUCKS. Let me rephrase that a little for the politically correct crowd: Mexico, especially the border towns, are in a sad state of affairs. Better? Drugs and prostitution flow freely, every last “cop” and politician is as crooked as San Francisco’s Lombard Street, and most places seem unabashedly stuck in the 19th century. Cartels, crooks, and pimps rule the day, and while maybe 30% of the population would like to rise above their abysmal existence, most seem content with fulfilling their own selfish needs, either for monetary gain or other, more seedy ventures. I’m not trying to start a commentary on the sociopolitical state of affairs in our Southern neighbor, but truth is truth: if Mexico ever wants to improve, they need to stand up and take their country back fast, as it’s already seated comfortably in hell, and the hand basket is broken.
Realizing that their buddy, Phil, has been abducted, Ed and Henry lend chase and subsequently discover that what they’re up against aren’t your typical kidnappers. Facing a sadistic cult of Santeria “practitioners”, the duo go about a hap-hazard rescue mission that culminates into a hurried, confusing, and uninteresting mess; ultimately one that you won’t care about, much less care to repeat. One more thing…Sean Astin IS in this movie. You remember Sean Astin, right? The Goonies, Rudy, The Lord of The Rings, and so on. Well, what better way to round out a semi-great career than to add a film like Borderland to your resume! To Astin’s credit, and during the roughly 15 or so minutes that he’s actually on-screen, his performance as the cult’s sort of “dirty work guy” is mostly well done. Given that the description of the movie touted it specifically as a taut thriller featuring a twisted and evil Sean Astin, I was more than mildly disappointed when neither piece of hype came true. Although Astin’s attempt is OK, his short and ultimately average part didn’t help, in the slightest, to right this otherwise sinking ship of a movie.
Bored? Watch Borderland.