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The despair and frightening solitude that horror often
strives for has a real life parallel; life in the armed forces. It seems
obvious, but it’s rarely used to its full potential. Thankfully, THE SQUAD
(world premiering at Fantastic Fest), the debut from Colombian filmmaker Jaime
Osorio Marquez is an incredibly worthy and unsettling addition to the military
horror section of our beloved genre.
Taking a page from THE THING in its palpable air of
paranoia, resentment and distrust, THE SQUAD sees the titular crew tasked to
aid an outpost, but upon arrival find nothing but blood spatter, corpses, the
densest of fogs and a possible guerilla (and/or witch to blame). Upon the
murder of their captain, the men find themselves enveloped in superstition, madness
and isolation, as well as their own demons.
An absolute ensemble piece, THE SQUAD nails an essential
aspect of any effective horror film in giving us a slew of well-rounded
characters worth investing in. Set against the backdrop of a war-torn Colombia,
the cast represents the diversity of the South American nation and as we watch
the guilt-ridden Ponce (Juan Pablo Barragan), the desperate Arango (Andres
Torres), the superstitious Fiquitiva (Nelson Camayo) and the menacing Cortez
(Alejandro Agulilar) slowly lose their cool, the film becomes a harrowing tale
of terror as much as it’s seemingly a story of how both sides of a civil war
are essentially battling themselves.
Aside from showing great skill in both story and character
development, Marquez builds an incredibly atmospheric work, encapsulating his
cast in the aforementioned oppressive fog and dimly lit environment that serves
to make their lack of communication with anyone outside even more severe. In
being subtly eerie throughout, the film eschews standard jumps and lets its
desolation wash over you and build toward the array of striking, climactic
violence (not to mention its tremendous final shot).
THE SQUAD is a startling and memorable first feature, one
that’s legitimately unsettling in its bleak and ambiguous nature and
practically ensures we’ll see more worth discussing from Marquez in the future.
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