Film: The Squad
UK Release date: 18th June 2012
UK Distributor: Momentum
Director: Jaime Osorio Marquez
Starring: Juan David Restrepo, Alejandro Aguilar, Andres Castarieda, Mateo Stevel
Reviewer: Adam Wing
Jaime Osorio Marquez directs this 2011 Colombian horror film, which focuses on a special army unit wandering around in dense fog – quite a lot of the time as it happens. I’m pretty sure there’s more to the plot than that, but there’s precious little else to recommend about this languid thriller. Apart from the murkiness that is, they spend a lot of time wandering around in the darkness as well.
When contact is lost with a military base set deep in the desolate plains of Colombia, a special high mountain command unit is sent to check things out. The Squad jumps right into the thick of it, both literally and figuratively, with next to no time devoted to character development or back-story. The majority of the first act is spent following one-dimensional characters around the darkness, with no sense of fear, purpose or drive. The cinematography deserves praise, as does the solid – not to mention formulaic – musical score, but Marquez fails to introduce his characters in a competent manner, resulting in a cold and distant opening that lacks fizz.
It takes over 30 minutes for the first plot development to take place, and up until that point we are expected to spend time in the company of some very detestable ‘allies’. The Squad introduces us to a hateful bunch, devoid of warmth, humour, heart and soul. Horror films come in all shapes and sizes, but films like The Squad rely on viewer investment to raise the sense of peril and dread - The Squad makes it very hard to care about any of the characters plights. Diego Vivanci’s script asks us to get behind a group of weak-minded bullies, which doesn’t evoke much sympathy at all. It’s a bleak, soulless affair that proves tedious, tiresome and painstakingly dull.
The flog lifts briefly when they find a woman alive amongst the dead bodies, but it’s not long before isolation, fear and banal horror cliché threaten to rip their worlds apart. They become prisoners of paranoia, preparing themselves for an inevitable showdown with themselves, each other and an unknown force of unspeakable evil - probably. It’s hard to tell with all this mist about. The first plot twist could’ve taken place in the pre-credit sequence; so unnecessary is the following trawl through cinematic wasteland. Instead we are treated to waves of relentless arguing, bullying and mild racism, which has little influence on the rest of the paper-thin plot.
There are moments that spark brief interest throughout, but The Squad mistakes dreariness for atmospheric beats, and fails to capitalise on some well-worn horror traits. As the bodies pile up there is precious little pay-off for your tolerance, and The Squad limps to an uninspiring conclusion. Alejandro Aguilar makes the biggest impact as the films venomous big bad, but despite competent performances, none of the characters are able to make a lasting impression. In the end, an absence of plot, character, heart and scares makes for barren viewing indeed.
A playful finale leaves a lasting impression but it’s too little too late, Marquez’ tepid thriller is too one note and too drawn out for its own good. File away under disappointment.