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HBO presents

Epitafios: The Complete Series (2004)

"I'm going to punish him."- Bruno (Antonio Birabent)

Stars: Julio Chavez, Paola Krum, Cecilia Roth, Antonio Birabent, Villanueva Cosse
Other Stars: Luis Luque, David Masajnik, Lito Cruz
Director: Jorge Nisco, Alberto Lecchi

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for frequent gore and violence, adult themes, nudity, sexual situations, language, drug use
Run Time: 13h:00m:00s
Release Date: 2006-08-29
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B C-C-B+ C-


DVD Review

[NOTE: There is a spoiler late in the third paragraph of this review.]

I suppose we have Thomas Harris to blame for the explosion of serial killer "entertainments" that popular culture has seen since the runaway success of Silence of the Lambs; that success has hardly been limited to America though; one of the more recent entries into an already crowded field is 2004's Epitafios (Epitaphs), an Argentinean mini-series that saw broadcast on HBO's Latino channel this year. Over thirteen episodes, the chase is on for a truly accomplished maniac, though his pursuers must surely rank among the most dense.

The story, apparently set in Buenos Aires, revolves around a five-year-old tragedy in which five high school students died after a failed rescue attempt. A serial killer has begun targetting everyone who played a role in the events leading up to the deaths, regardless of any actual guilt. Singled out for special attention are Renzo Marquez (Julio Chavez) and Laura Santini (Paola Krum), who each played vital parts in the rescue attempt. Renzo was a cop at the time, one of the best, we are told, but the tragedy led him to retire, a broken man. Laura, a psychiatrist, spurned Renzo's attempt at a relationship while counselling him. Now, he drives a cab and leads a barren existence, living with his father Marcos (Villaneuva Cosse), a gregarious ex-homicide detective. The killer, Bruno, (Antonio Birabent) taunts Renzo and company by sending hand-drawn epitaphs with clues to the next victim, all of whom are of course killed in fiendishly clever ways underlining their supposed offenses. Bruno, seemingly several steps ahead of everyone, knows Renzo and Laura very well.

Epitafios flows easily from episode to the next, with its plot carrying things along in the early stages as we get caught up in the crimes. The main issue I had with the series was in the characters; Renzo is an unhinged burnout, and the writing never really raises him above that level. He's usually a jerk, and has no redeeming qualities beyond an obsession to capture Bruno. Renzo can be summed up in a word: surly. And this is our hero! We root for him only because Bruno is an even bigger waste of space. And that's the other problem with the show. As the villain of the piece, he makes Hannibal Lecter look like a amateur. He can do everything and do it expertly, from electrical wiring to computer hacking to surgery to detailed line drawing to firearms to whatever the situation requires. He punches through glass with his fist, arm, and head at different points without so much as a scratch. He constantly gets the drop on trained professionals with ease. It gets to be ridiculous, waiting to see how he'll get away in each episode. Added to that, Bruno is a—SPOILER AHOY, JUMP TO NEXT PARAGRAPH IF YOU CARE—gay cannibal transvestite necrophiliac with a mommy fixation. You think I'm making that up, don't you? I had to quit rolling my eyes midway through the show lest they start doing complete rotations in my head. And when you see the final fate of Bruno's mother, I dare you not to laugh till you cry.

The need to presumably stretch the series to thirteen episodes results in complete departures from reality and logic; this is a serial killer soap opera, essentially. That a case like this would be assigned to a burnout ex-cop five years off the force is ludicrous, and that the police wouldn't bother to assign a homicide detective until more than two months and several murders had passed is equally moronic and is either indicative of the level of contempt the writers had for their audience, their own ignorance, or that audiences just don't care about reality. Anyway. Humorously, once that homicide cop, Marina (Cecilia Roth), joins the case, she figures out Bruno's identity and backstory within one day, only to (of course) get captured by Bruno, who then tortures her as only a deranged genius serial killer can. Renzo meanwhile shares countless conversations with the Bruno via cell phone, and the cops only bother to try and track one out of many calls. Bruno being Super Killer, the attempt fails.

I could go on and on, but the point is this: this show is completely ludicrous, and eventually it simply gets boring. By the seventh or eighth episode, I just wanted it to end. Bruno isn't compelling as a character; he's just an obnoxious twerp. I kept watching only in the hopes that he'd eventually get shot in the face or suffer some other similar feelgood ending. But naturally, whatever Bruno's fate there can be no real justice for the crimes committed, and there's an unsurprisingly cynical ending to cap things off, which just further compounds the bad taste this left. Unless you get off on serial killers, give this a wide berth.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Don't be fooled; the package reads 16:9 enhanced, but this is a 4:3 letterboxed transfer, which is only just tolerable on a larger monitor, with constant flickering anytime there's motion onscreen. Otherwise, the color levels look okay and I didn't see any obvious artifacting problems. The white subtitles include numerous typos and grammatical errors.

Image Transfer Grade: C-

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Spanishno

Audio Transfer Review: The original Spanish 2.0 track is the only option, and it's fine. It's clean and free of any distortion.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+ 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 78 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
24 TV Spots/Teasers
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Box Set
Picture Disc
5 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: HBO provides their usual preview ans review trailers with each episode, should you wish to recapture the viewing experience. Also, a behind-the-scenes featurette (11m:10s) features interviews with all the principal cast and director, in which they expound on their characters and their motivations, punctuated with clips from the series. There's nothing here of great importance. If you like the series, you'll likely enjoy this.

Extras Grade: C-

Final Comments

If you love your serial killer movies, you may get a kick of out of Epitafios; it is slickly produced, cynically pulpy "entertainment," though reality has taken the first train out of town, and it's too long by half. HBO's DVD set is disappointing thanks to a mediocre 4:3 letterboxed presentation.

Jeff Wilson 2006-08-29