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Much like the beautiful lush forests of California, there’s something dark and sinister lurking behind Murder Mountain’s facade. An ugly rot at the heart of Humboldt County as the missing bodies continue to rise in a community mired in conspiracy, secrets and murder. Welcome to the Californian cannabis trade. This 6 episode documentary is an interesting, surprising and oftentimes unnerving look at the extent of corruption and danger cannabis farming breeds with an absorbing murder mystery at its core for good measure.
Most of the episodes follow a conventional pattern, with three distinct subplots woven throughout. The first looks at the history of Humboldt County, from its origins in the 1960s through to Nixon’s War On Drugs and subsequent change to a more criminalized, outlawed feel to the town as the peaceful hippies make way thanks to military intervention. The second story looks at the effect of legalized weed in 2018 and how that’s impacted the drug trade with the third gravitating around the death of a young man named Garrett Rodriguez back in 2013.
All three of these stories play into the overall narrative around the drug trade itself, with interviews from locals, private investigators and law enforcement helping to give a rounded view to proceedings. These three stories work surprisingly well together too and help give each episode a consistent flow and vibe without ever feeling overlong or bloated.
What’s particularly surprising here is just how cult-like the entire community feels. This tiny bubble of civilization has its own set of rules and regulations it follows, with law enforcement crooked and regularly failing to pick up on crucial pieces of evidence and follow up on leads presented to them. It raises troubling questions around just how many of these missing person cases could have been solved with a better regulated police force. Of course, to contrast that the series does at least include interviews with some officers who share their view on proceedings.
The series itself follows the usual tropes you’d expect from this genre too. Re-enacted dramatized segments, real life news reports and talking heads combine to form the crux of the series. There’s also some footage shot following farmers around the fields and still photographs of groups and individuals, especially in Garrett’s story, to really help give some variety.
While Murder Mountain doesn’t break any new ground nor does it provide anything particularly outstanding when all is said and done, the mystery itself and three separate storylines do well to give the series a unique blend of ideas. The pacing is consistent too and every episode flows into the next with a surprise revelation at the end of each enticing you to binge through this 6 episode series. While the mystery of Garrett’s death is a little anticlimactic at times, the other two stories are fascinating and paint a very real picture of what’s going on right now with the drug trade.
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Verdict - 7.5/10