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“Punta Muerto” is a stylish, Hitchcockian horror noir from Argentina that poses the age old question: is the mystery, by itself, enough?

Punta Muerto (Dead End) is a Spanish film from Argentina directed by Daniel de la Vega and done in typical noir fashion. The film is in black and white with slow, purposefully unrealistic action scenes and an abundance of drama.

Think Hitchcock’s The Birds if you’re unfamiliar with horror noir films.

Luis Peñafiel, a famous author, is riding the train with the well-known critic Dupuin. They are discussing Peñafiel’s latest novel, which Dupuin is less than enthusiastic about. His main complaint is Peñafiel’s inability to solve “the Locked Door Enigma.” In the manuscript, the killer—named “Wraith”— leaves a room that is locked from the inside.

“Next you’ll tell me the mystery is enough,” Dupuin scoffs, clearly not sold on this notion.

In comes Lupus, fellow author and huge fan of Peñafiel’s work. Lupus happens to be working on a novel that also fails to solve the Locked Door Enigma. This crazy coincidence brings the two men together, despite Peñafiel’s ominous warning not to trust other authors.

The first half of the film is essentially a pissing contest between Dupuin and Peñafiel, who cannot seem to agree on anything at all. After a drunken late night dispute witnessed by most of the hotel, Dupuin is found murdered in his locked room.

Peñafiel, who wakes up with hands covered in blood wearing the same cloak his villain wears in his novel, knows he will be blamed for the murder. With Lupus’ help, he hides the body and works on solving what is now a murder mystery. “El jugo ha comenzado.”

The game has begun.

The attention to detail in this film is the most memorable aspect.

Specifically, Vega’s one-liners are excellent. For those who are not fluent Spanish speakers, the strengths from the original dialogue are translated well by the subtitles. The music adds an extra layer of intensity and oomph to scenes that may have otherwise been lacking.

The aesthetics are a focus as well: Beautiful shots of a glove floating in a wine barrel, a cat donning pearls, and the liberal use of typewriters do a fantastic job of setting the scene.

Unfortunately, I agree with Dupuin about the mystery.

The mystery alone, while enough to get me invested, is not satisfying without accompanying answers.

The film spent an hour building up a big reveal that never came. Maybe for some, the mystery is enough, and those people will surely enjoy this film. However, for those of us who like to delve deeper into plot development, this film will leave you unsatisfied.

For me personally, Punta Muerto left something to be desired.

However, it’s a memorable film with breathtaking imagery and a strong soundtrack. The plot piqued my interest from the start, remaining solid throughout the first act, before falling short toward the middle of the film. And, in spite of any issues I may have had with the film, Daniel de la Vega’s attention to detail suggests he’ll create some truly fantastic films in the future.

Punta Muerto made its North American premiere at Cinepocalypse 2019. 

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