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A small group of documentary filmmakers chronicle the trials and inequities faced by Mexican illegal immigrants. When they join a group of families illegally crossing the border to record the experience firsthand, their truck is pulled over and detained. What happens next plunges their group into unimaginable horror. Written by
Takes the torture-porn genre into a very real arena, and you may hate it for that
As much as there is to criticize about "Undocumented," I have to admit it does a very audacious thing, at least for a horror picture made on the caliber and budget of cheapsploitation classics like "Baker County" and "I Spit on Your Grave": it forces you to actually turn the camera eye on yourself and your beliefs on illegal immigration, whatever they may be, and then confront the very real, but often unseen, after shocks of those beliefs.
Pretty boy and girl Scott Mechlowicz and Alona Tol head up a group of five scarily naive grad students who are doing their thesis on the plight of illegals and their often fatal journeys across the border by...get this: actually aiding them in their trek. If you can get past this admittedly foolhardy and absurd premise, the rest of the film is actually *easier* to swallow, and that's what makes it so much harder to watch and, by turns, to look away from.
On arriving on New Mexico soil, they are immediately ambushed by a gang of paramilitary "patriots" led by "Z" (an insanely chilling Peter Stormare who remains masked for virtually the entire film). What follows is nothing we haven't seen before in the "Hostel" films: ritual humiliation, torture, and full-on carnage, but...this time it's not for the lark of a few rich and twisted businessmen to get their rocks off. No, these sadists actually have a point to make and, for me at least, this really catapulted this snuff box of a movie into a very discomfiting and visceral space in my brain.
"Undocumented" isn't the first horror film to shove hatred into our line of sight and then force us to ingest it, but it does it in such a convincing stylized nightmare way to make it difficult to shake off. More than a few people I've talked to have had a rough time forgetting this film purely because much of Stormare's didactic prattling has inadvertently (or not) come from their own mouths at one time or another. It's disquieting in a way few horror films manage to achieve because, unlike high-handed circle jerks such as "Funny Games," you can see where the villain's bile originates.
In addition to Stormare's tour-de-sicko turn, Mechlowicz continues his run of quietly breakout performances: from "Mean Creek" to "Gone" to this film, he seems bent on forcing you to look past his air-brushed looks by turning in very convincing portraits of deeply-troubled, morally conflicted heroes and villains. The fact that he effectively 180's you from believing his character a pompous a-hole to someone you feel genuine pity for is pretty amazing in itself.
Look, this isn't Citizen Kane. It's not even Citizen Ruth...newcomer Chris Peckover doesn't have the chops of Alexander Payne or Orson Welles. Not yet, anyway. Still this isn't your big brother's crappy little torture flick from the turn of the millennium. No, this one is a bit too true to life for something you'll forget that easily. Even if you wish you could.
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