Blu-ray l DVD
Director: Jaime Osorio Marquez
Screenwriter: Jaime Osorio Marquez, Tania Cardenas
Cast: Juan David Restrepo, Andrés Castañeda, Mauricio Navas, Mateo Stevel, Daniela Catz, Nelson Camayo, Andres Torres, Juan Pablo Barragan
Rated R | 100 Minutes
Release Date: October 21, 2014
“Something is out there.”
Directed by Jaime Osorio Marquez, The Squad (El Páramo) is a 2011 survival horror film about an anti-guerrilla commando unit sent to investigate an abandoned military outpost.
All contact with the base has been lost. Almost immediately, Marquez’s film feels like low-budget Colombian adaptation of James Cameron’s Aliens. In this case, the colony on LV-426 is a desolate military base located high in the mountains, shrouded in fog.
When the nine-man squad reaches the outpost, they discover the bloody aftermath of a firefight between government soldiers and rebel guerrillas. And then things start to get weird. The men discover ornaments made of tiny bones hanging from the ceiling and incantations written in blood that translate to, “I command you to stay away by the god of men. Amen.”
After sweeping the base, the men discover a survivor: a mute woman (kind of like an adult version of Newt, right?) trapped behind a concrete wall, tied up and left for dead. Is she a victim? A terrorist? Or something more sinister? One superstitious soldier believes the old woman to be a witch, responsible for the bloodshed at the base. One thing is for certain: she was tied up for a reason.
The isolation, and the inability to communicate with the outside world, begins to wear on the soldiers. As paranoia and fear settle in, they question the identity of their enemy and the true nature of the strange, silent woman in their custody. After the sergeant is found dead and the woman goes missing, It’s only a matter of time until the men savagely turn on one another.
The Squad is a psychological thriller with a supernatural edge – A movie that feels equally inspired by war dramas like Saving Private Ryan and Black Hawk Down and horror films like Aliens, The Thing, and Su-chang Kong’s eerily similar 2008 flick, The Guard Post.
Marquez dials in an impressive effort, despite the small budget he’s working with. The inspired cinematography by Alejandro Moreno, along with a muted color palette and some really atmospheric locations, gives the film a gritty realism, and the performances are on-point even if there isn’t much distinction among the characters themselves.
Really, the only problem with The Squad is how sedate and slow-moving the proceedings are. I’m all for creating tension – and I love a good “slow burn” as much as the next guy, but Marquez’s film slows down to screeching halts every time you’re ready to invest in its characters and their predicament. Ultimately, I think I wanted the movie to be a true genre film, but instead I got something more cerebral – more exacting – and a lot less entertaining.
The movie hits Blu-ray on October 21 via Scream Factory. If you’re unfamiliar with Shout Factory’s sub-division of forgotten horror and science-fiction films, Scream Factory is like the Criterion Collection of low-budget slasher flicks and B-movies. The Squad is one of those rare new releases – like The Battery – where the emphasis isn’t a top-notch restoration of a film you’ve only seen on VHS, but giving a little-known indie flick a bigger audience.
For some, The Squad will impress with its tense, psychological drama. For others, it will fail to deliver on its interesting premise. It’s a polished, well-crafted thriller, but it just isn’t all that thrilling to me. Regardless, Marquez’s feature film debut signifies a promising future for the Colombian filmmaker.
You can purchase The Squad on DVD and Blu-ray on Amazon.
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