DVD Review: The Squad / Cert: 15 / Director: Jaim Osorio Marquez / Screenplay: Diego Vivanco / Starring: Juan David Restrepo, Andres Castaneda, Juan Pablo Barragan / Release Date: July 18th
The Squad (aka El Paramo) is a joint Columbian, Argentinian and Spanish horror production from first time director Osorio Marquez. It follows the eponymous group of elite commandos who are sent to investigate when all communication is lost with a remote military base. The base is set on Knife’s Peak, an isolated hilltop that is shrouded by fog, and the initial consensus is that guerrillas have managed to overrun the bunker.
Once the team arrive, things start to go wrong straight away with a member of their group becoming incapacitated by a mine. When they finally manage to get the power running again at the base, they find blood everywhere, but hardly any bodies. Investigating, they find the radios disabled and walls with prayers written on them, with chicken feet hanging from the ceilings. One of the team hears a knock from behind one of the walls and smashes it down, finding a lone woman bound behind it. They bring her out and try to ascertain what has occurred, but she is unresponsive.
The base log is found, which details what happened to the previous team and also states that the woman is a witch. She escapes and further revelations ramp up the tension until the squad degenerate into paranoia and claustrophobia. The chain of command collapses and the commandos start to turn on each other as their situation worsens by the moment when their backup that they are expecting shows no sign of arriving.
Considering this is by a debutante director, it is a smart horror piece. The first half is quite slow burn, but the second is a master-class in eking every last penny out of your location. Similar to John Carpenter’s The Thing, there is a real tangible sense of insanity befalling the soldiers as they try to discover if their predicament is down to the actions of the supposed witch, the guerrillas or their own imaginations. There are other nods to genre classics such as Alien and Predator, but they are more from tight camera angles and a creepy atmosphere. Don’t let the fact that the three films above have been mentioned make you think that this is an extra-terrestrial piece – far from it – but the issues of trust and friction that those films imbue are present here in abundance. Despite the gore quotient – which includes a pit of dead bodies and one nasty piece of bodily dismemberment – The Squad relies on psychological horror, and is all the better for it.
The soundtrack seems to amount to little more than a chorus of strings that literally scream tension, but this only works in the film’s favour. The cast are commendable and deliver some really good performances. Of course, the movie is presented in its original Spanish soundtrack with English subtitles, but we all know that can make for a very pleasant experience, and this is no different.
Special Features: None