This outstanding miniseries marks HBO's first foray into Latin American TV. It centres around a serial killer who is methodically killing off people connected to a botched hostage rescue at a local Buenos Aires highschool five years earlier. Ex-detective Renzo Marquez (Julio Chavez) was responsible for the disaster in which four 16-year old hostages burnt to death. Someone is now seeking revenge. The story revolves around the retired detective and his ex-lover, the psychiatrist Laura Santini (Paola Krum). Santini had the misfortune of acting as hostage negotiator during the seige. Both are the main targets but the killer delights in a sadistic cat-and-mouse game as he spares them while despatching other victims in increasingly bizarre and gruesome ways, accompanying each with a tombstone carved with a cryptic epitaph outlining their supposed crime, hence the title.
Made in Argentina with an excellent all Spanish-speaking cast, this was originally intended for broadcast only in Latin America. Its popularity and critical acclaim led to its inclusion on the US HBO-Latino channel. Now it is being released on DVD, suitably subtitled for non Spanish-speaking Americans. The miniseries consists of just 13 45-min-long episodes. It is unlike anything you've seen on TV before. It is unremittingly dark. And it is gruesome. In the opening episode, the first victim is dismembered, with his body parts strewn artistically around the house. The violence is almost always off-camera. We are shown the gory after-effects. It is definitely not for the squeamish. The identity of the killer is made known by the third episode but the tension never flags and builds inexorably to a very satisfying if dark climax. There is no happy ending. Some have described it as bleak but there is a ray of defiant optimism at the end which for me just manages to dispel the utter darkness.
This is an altogether excellent production, with a literate and suspense-filled script, complex, believable characters, and a superb all-round cast. However the HBO DVD is marred by the absence of anamorphic enhancement (not enhanced for widescreen TV). It is presented in its original 16x9 widescreen aspect but letterboxed into a standard 4x3 frame. Although the picture quality is very good for a non-anamorphic transfer, it still falls below what is possible with suitable anamorphic enhancement. Considering the high asking-price, HBO should have done better. The original Spanish 2.0 Dolby Surround track is provided. There is satisfyingly deep bass, heard best in Ivan Wyszogord's darkly throbbing score, with its haunting soprano line soaring above the gloom. Dialogue is crystal clear and the operatic exerpts are reproduced very accurately. (The killer has a penchant for Bizet's Carmen, especially for the Habanera - you hear it in every episode - if he's not listening to it, he'll be whistling it). Optional Spanish and English subtitles are provided. The only Extra is an 11-minute "Behind the Scenes" featurette in Spanish with optional English subtitles. HBO has gone out of its way to make this DVD accessible to both Spanish and English audiences. The box-art, the DVD menus and submenus, and the plot-summaries for each episode, are all available in both Spanish and English.
Note: Being a TV series, it is not rated. If this were a film submitted to the MPAA, it would likely receive an R-rating for "disturbing violence, offensive language, nudity and sexual situations."