Monday, June 25, 2012

The Squad (El Paramo) is Born of Nightmares: A Movie Review

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Director: Jaime Osorio Marquez.

Writers: Tania Cardenas, Jaime Osorio Marquez, and Diego Vivanco.

Cast: Juan David Restrepo, Juan Pablo Barragan, Andrés Castañeda, and Mauricio Navas.

Director Jaime Osorio Marquez's first film, El Paramo aka The Squad, is a chilling footstep into the horror genre. The film shows the fictional psychological breakdown of a military squad. Their loss may or may not be instigated by a supernatural phenomenon. Eerie music, a fog covered setting and use of darkness create for one of the most terrifying films to come out of South America (Colombia) in a long time.

The film follows Ponce (Juan Pablo Barragan) in the early scenes. His face is grim as he enters yet another combat zone. He and his squad mates must reconnoiter a local communications array. The soldiers stationed there have not responded to radio transmissions and a fog in the area blurs the vision.

Ponce is then caught up in a tragedy at the focal point. The previous residents have been murdered. A log book tells tales of a witch and her curse. She is found housed behind a newly built wall. Once she gets out, events take a strange turn. Blood and terror are the results.

The Squad falls into the psychological horror genre. Films similar to this style include Event Horizon (1997) and The Bunker (2001). In all three films, characters self-destruct either because of an internal or external force. Characters turn on characters in a battle to become the most bloodthirsty. This style of filmmaking can sometimes be disheartening as only tragedy can result from the journey into madness. Just ask Col. Kurtz from Apocalypse Now (1979) if there is a return from this path.

And tragedy is one of several elements that makes The Squad so terrifying. The film crew creates for an unsettling environment. As mentioned, fog is all about and it is hard for the viewer and the characters to determine who is who. Is there a creature in the gloom? The music is constantly amplifying the tension. The soundtrack is often dark and it often offers foreboding. There is only one spot where the music lightens and this is in the conclusion. It is here that you should tense as Marquez sets up a shock, which will not be revealed here. As well, there is so much darkness in this film especially in the final scenes. There is only a single light in the finale as Ponce discovers more and more murder. Horrors truly emerge from all of this blackness. Each of these film elements come together to create for an absolute terrifying time.

This is actually one of the first films in a long time that has created so much tension for so long that this reviewer had to physically turn away from the screen. There is just so little light heartedness in this film that the atmosphere begins to pull you into the abyss. And if you stare into the abyss, you might not like what is staring back (Friedrich Nietzsche). Your own fears might emerge.

Fans of horror films should absolutely search for this film if you are in the mood for a film that is truly horrifying. Watch this film on your own or with a friend and prepare for a journey into tragedy and madness. And when the birds start chirping and the music changes into the serene, prepare for the surprise of your life.

*released June 18th in the United Kingdom (DVD).

Overall: 8 out of 10 (truly unsettling, chilling soundtrack, scares abound, standard directing techniques).

The film's official website is found below:

The Squad's Homepage

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