Origin Unknown aka Sin Origen (FrightFest 2020) review – Mexican standoff like no other When worlds collide

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Summary

White-collar criminal readies himself and his family for trouble from his drug-runner employers when Hell of a different kind comes down on his sanctuary. Entertaining supernatural swashbuckling stuff, with more lavish style than substance.

Sin Origen (known as Origin Unknown or Unsourced in some countries) opens with a head cleanly cut off, rolling towards the viewer. Stylized sword fighting with a blend of slow motion and speeded up cinematography, with badass armor and moody lighting… I don’t know what’s going on, but it looks exciting.

Fast forward – in the next scene – to the present day and we meet a well-to-do family settling into a gorgeous house. There’s tension and no-one seems to be getting along; even the father’s new partner is unwelcome, as far as the kids are concerned (no surprise when we find out she’s his late wife’s sister). It’s not just the family settling in, but guards too, inside and all around the house, which is fully equipped as a high-tech safe house. Pedro De Toro (Daniel Martínez) has been an accountant for a drug cartel, and now he plans to negotiate his way out of their employ, so keeping his family as safe as possible just in case the news doesn’t go down well. However, a battle he is not prepared for lands on the doorstep when a sick girl (Paulina Gil) appears, looking for refuge.

Origin Unknown, or Sin Origen is directed by Rigoberto Castañeda (KM 31: Kilómetro 31, Blackout) and adapted to work for the Mexican market from a script by Michael Caissie (Hangman). It is an action-rich dark fantasy about two conflicts that happen to coincide at the same location: one criminal and one supernatural. The girl is being hunted by “arcana”, warriors with ancient weapons and ceremonial tattoos, led by Velkam (Arap Bethke); and it’s largely by those tattoos that we can tell which side the weird strangers are on until those without the tattoos reveal a clue of their own: fangs.

So if I had started off saying this is a Mexican film about gangsters and vampires, you might have expected something like From Dusk til’ Dawn, and I didn’t really want to give that impression. There are scenes which call to mind Let the Right One In, with the stranger making friends with Pedro’s adolescent son. There is also a home invasion, some flamboyant swashbuckling, and vampires to like to flaunt like the monsters in 30 Days of Night. This film is not a deep or complex one, but smothered with as much glamour as violence: everyone here (and their dialogue) could have fitted right in playing a telenovela.

Unknown Origin smells of bling budget: the clothes, décor, and of course the security in the house – strangely exposed, for a safehouse – cry out luxury. It is filmed with a flourish and sparkles like an awards ceremony. The fight scenes are terrific, no surprise to find all concerned trained for at least two months each. The film isn’t terribly bloody and would be perfectly suitable to watch with, say, a fourteen-year-old, as it covers some grown-up plot without too much “adult” content.

It does lack some depth, mind you: sure the family and criminals are all worthy of a quality soap opera, but the story has enough potential that if it was given more background, perhaps a wider scope, it could merit a six- or eight-episode series. The feeling that there was some substance missing was particularly present right at the end: most of the film was very watchable, but the ending was unfortunately unsatisfying.

Nevertheless, I liked Castañeda’s style. And if I’m right that it is suited to a series, I’ll look out for his Narcos Vs Zombies. In the meantime, Sin Origen has its UK premiere at FrightFest, October 2020.


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Alix Turner

Alix has been writing for Ready Steady Cut since November 2017. They cover a wide variety, including genre festivals, and especially appreciates wit and representation on screen.

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