Monday, September 29, 2014

THE SQUAD (2011)

THE SQUAD (2011)
AKA EL PARAMO
Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: A 
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 100 Minutes
Audio: Spanish DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Video: 1080p Widescreen (2:35:1) 
Director: Jaime Osorio Marquez
Cast: Juan David Restrepo, Juan Pablo Barragán, Mauricio Navas, Alejandro Aguilar, Andrés Castañeda


Synopsis: All contact with a military base high in the desolate wastelands of Colombia has been lost. The authorities – believing the base to have fallen to a terrorist attack – send a nine-man squad to investigate. When they arrive, the men discover a shocking scene of carnage and only one survivor: a mute woman in chains. Gradually the isolation, the inability to communicate with the outside world and the impossibility of escape begin to undermine the sanity of the soldiers. They start to question the identity of their enemy and the true nature of the strange, silent woman. Is she a terrorist? A victim? Or something more sinister? Something supernatural? Paranoia takes root. Prisoners of fear and the terrible secret they share, the men abandon their humanity and turn savagely on one another.

This claustrophobic thriller from first-time director Jaime Osorio Marquez throws us right into a tense set-up as a group of nine Colombian soldiers are dispatched to a military outpost after communications have been cut-off. Operating under the theory that a group of guerrilla soldiers may have taken the base by force they arrive on foot only to discover a scene much more eerie, the base is completely empty with the exception of a few corpses.  There are no immediate signs of soldiers stationed at the outpost or of the suspected rebel fighters. 


The walls of the outpost are blood-spattered as if something awful has happened but are precious few clues as odd are the chicken feet dangling from the ceiling on strings and strange incantations written on the wall designed to ward off evil. It just so happens that behind one of these walls the soldiers uncover a feral woman sealed-up inside, she's alive but unable or unwilling to speak - she just screams a lot and makes the men uncomfortable. . 

The nine-man squad from the get-go are a bundle of nerves and the dynamic between each are strained, the situation only worsens after the discovery of the woman and the longer they remain on the mountain the more the soldiers succumb to distrust, paranoia and violence towards each other - could this witchy woman be the cause? 

The location of the base is quite effective, a secluded mountain top communications base shrouded in a dense layer of wispy fog, it adds quite a bit of character to the film when exterior shots are used, I only wish they had made more use of it. The color scheme is a bit drab and the characters sort of run into each other as they are in uniform and dirt-covered - it took me a while to differentiate between them all.  It's a taught slow-burn but I must admit that the pay-off left me less than satisfied, there's very little story arc to the film and by the end you realize just how little how transpired for the duration of the film and that was problematic for me. It has some truly creepy moments but is lacking the visceral punch it needed to make the slow-burn pay off. 

I give the cast a lot of credit for these are solid performances through and through, a mix of aggressive machismo and soldier camaraderie peppered with anxiety and edginess. Technically the film is very tight and well crafted but the journey left me wanting more as the film did not deliver on on the slow-burn that builds to more of a fizzle. A lot of promise onscreen but just not a film I can see myself watching again anytime soon. 

The Blu-ray from Scream Factory offers up a solid HD 
transfer with a strong Spanish language 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio with optional English subtitles. Extras include a 20-minute Spanish language making-of featurette and a trailer for the film. 

THE SQUAD (2011) didn't quite do it for me but I do appreciate when Scream branch off from the eighties horror and cult-classics with a contemporary foreign import or made-for-TV production from time to time. They've had winners with Larry Fessenden's creature feature BENEATH (2013) and the COCKNEYS VS ZOMBIES (2012). This one's a decent one and done that won't leave you sour but probably won't have you running back for a second helping. . 

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