Over-the-top barely covers the tone of Andres Baiz’s helming debut, “Satanas.” Based on infamous mass murders in Bogota, pic makes the mistake (the first of many) of tackling three stories rather than one: Mario Mendoza’s novel had even more characters, but Baiz would have done better to concentrate on the murderer rather than banalities such as a priest uneasy with his vows. Inexplicably selected as Colombia’s Oscar entry, “Satanas” will find theatrical bookings only south of the border.
The future killer, Eliseo (Damian Alcazar), presents the most interesting study: A Vietnam vet living with his combative elderly mother (Teresa Gutierrez), he wraps his dignity, and his fantasies, around his role as private English tutor to wealthy teen Natalia (Martina Garcia). Meanwhile, Father Ernesto (Blas Jaramillo) burns himself with cigarettes to expiate his sins of the flesh, and poor but pretty Paola (Marcela Mar) drugs men at bars so her accomplices can rob them. All come together at the violent conclusion, whose high pitch feels unclimactic since a more balanced rhythm was never established earlier. Cast, drawn from across Latin America, is wildly uneven, though Alcazar and Gutierrez achieve some resonance.