Netflix’s Murder Mountain

July 2019

Netflix’s Murder Mountain is sensationalized, overblown show: “weed wars” meets police department takedown documentary, with a bit of Humboldt hippie history, and 2018 farmers struggling with legalization, added for interest.

There’s fog. As much fog as there is ominous music (a lot). Blurry shots of people taking bong hits. Lots of trucks driving around, in the dark and fog.

But like any well-produced true crime show, the tense drama, the buildups, the re-enacted shadowy violence, and primary storyline pull you in. Recounting the 2013 murder of Garret Rodriguez through interviews with his dad, aunt, friends and people who lived in the Humboldt hills is compelling. If you make it past 1 episode, you kind of have to watch all 6 to see what happens. Ah Netflix.

 

Along with the family, there is also the Humboldt County Sheriff’s department, who are really made to look bad in Murder Mountain. It is pretty much a takedown for most of the series, with the narrative that they did not care about some Southern California kid who came north to get rich in an illegal marijuana grow. Maybe. But none of the cops interviewed come across like assholes, most of what they say seems reasonable, so the narrative is more about the family’s frustration with them perhaps.

Then there are the two private investigators, who of course put in the work the police apparently were not willing to, so they are heartfelt heroes, and some neighbors on the mountain who are trying to make themselves look good after the fact (or could just be random people who wanted to be on tv, who knows).

But the show can’t exactly make up its mind whether to trash the cops, or talk about how that part of Humboldt county has a tradition of outlaw growers who don’t ever want law enforcement around.

 

There is some good hippy footage and late 60’s back to the land history in an early episode, and interviews with a couple of the formerly naked geodesic dome builder hippies / pioneering growers. Also included are a number of good interviews with different farmers, especially interviews that show the 2018 pains of farmers trying to cope with new and ever changing regulations. A scene where one grower stops doing bong hits for a few minutes prior to handing in paperwork to the County is particularly moving.

Those parts of the series were pretty interesting, especially if you were not so familiar with the origins and 2018 changes in the business of growing weed. I’ve never been to Alderpoint, CA (Aka Murder Mountain), but I can’t imagine that it is as crazy as the series makes it out to be. On the other hand, you may actually learn something about cannabis growers, and Humboldt county, and all the fog and out-of-focus bong hits happening there right now.