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From Buenos Aires with dread comes Epitafios, a devastating, gag-inducing, and gut-wrenching 13-part miniseries, produced by HBO for Latin America, but was such a sensation it earned a subtitled American broadcast and DVD release. Those creepily compelled by Se7en, or who breathlessly awaited the unmasking of the Carver on Nip/Tuck will be hooked into Epitafos from first corpse to last (the body count is substantial). Things get off to a shocking start with the discovery of the gruesomely dismembered body of a former professor, who five years earlier had taken hostage four students, all of whom died when a rescue attempt went horribly awry. Now, someone is methodically killing those who had a direct and indirect connection with the tragedy. Reluctantly pulled back on to the case is psyche-scarred Renzo (Julio Chavez), the suicidal and self-pitying former cop who blames himself for the students' deaths. He quit the force and is now a cab driver. His old friend on the force, the grizzled Benitez (Lito Cruz), recruits him to help when two tombstones bearing their names are found at the crime scene. Sharing Renzo's tombstone is the name of beautiful psychologist Laura Santini (Paolo Krum), who was treating the professor when he flipped out, and with whom Renzo, her patient, had fallen in love.
It gets creepier. Much creepier. In advance of each murder, the killer sends the police fiendishly enigmatic tombstone epitaphs (hence the title), among them: "Here lies he who never should have trusted his best friend" and "Here lies he who turned deception into a game." He also seems to be everywhere and to be able to anticipate his pursuers' every move. He leaves an ominous message for Laura on her child's balloon before she picks him up at school. He ignites the outlines of body drawings on the street where one of his victims will be passing. The despair in Epitafios is palpable. It makes Se7en look like the feel-good movie of the century. It also thinks nothing of pulling the rug out from under viewers expecting major characters to survive the miniseries, or introducing others, such as homicide investigator Marina (Ceclia Roth), with very heavy emotional baggage of their own. But you won't be able to look away, even when you're terrified of what you'll see next. --Donald Liebenson