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RATED Not Rated
STUDIO Shout! Factory
RUNNING TIME 100 Minutes
• The Making of The Squad
• Theatrical Trailer
I watched this movie’s plot crawl along the edge of a straight razor. That’s my dream; that’s my nightmare.
Juan Pablo Barragan, Alejandro Aguilar, Mauricio Navas, Juan David Restrepo
All contact with a military base high in the desolate wastelands of Colombia has been lost. The authorities – believing the base to have fallen to a terrorist attack – send a nine-man squad to investigate. When they arrive, the men discover a shocking scene of carnage and only one survivor: a mute woman in chains.
Gradually the isolation, the inability to communicate with the outside world and the impossibility of escape begin to undermine the sanity of the soldiers. They start to question the identity of their enemy and the true nature of the strange, silent woman. Is she a terrorist? A victim? Or something more sinister? Something supernatural? Paranoia takes root. Prisoners of fear and the terrible secret they share, the men abandon their humanity and turn savagely on one another.
Shout! Factory’s Scream Factory label has been lauded (rightfully so) for releasing a treasure trove of old, forgotten, or just under-rated horror movies over the last few years. What they have gotten comparatively few accolades for is their efforts in releasing foreign and independent movies through the label. Movies such as The Battery , Dead Shadows, and Cockneys vs. Zombies have shown that Scream Factory is willing to bring us new movies to love alongside those old ones we’ve been pining for.
The Squad is a Colombian film from first-time film-maker Jaime Osorio Marquez; it concerns a squad of soldiers dispatched into a friendly outpost to re-establish communication and see if its occupants were killed by rebels or just suffered problems with their coms. The squad is serving under a new Lieutenant with a chip on his shoulder, so the soldiers are already in a bad frame of mind when they discover the outpost empty save for a mute woman sealed inside a wall covered in prayers of protection. A squad member is murdered and the woman disappears, leaving the squad to become paranoid and fearful of who will die next.
The Squad is pregnant with potential as a sort of mash-up of Apocalypse Now, The Thing, and Aliens with an occult twist. We have prayers claiming that the woman inside the wall is evil, a log written by one of the people in the outpost detailing the breakdown there, and that’s not even mentioning the reveal of what happened to all the people in the outpost. The movie sets itself up for a killer second half sure to shock and awe; I recall thinking to myself, “Man, wouldn’t it be stupid if this movie never explains or expands on any of this?” Yes, me of the past, it sure would be and it really is when that’s exactly what happens.
While the story builds up for the first half, it plateaus well before any sort of climax is reached. Paranoia sets in a bit too quick and much of the movie concerns the characters freaking out about something that has barely been established as a threat yet. Hitchcock said that nothing is scarier than an unopened door, which is true unless the door looks completely harmless and the entire run-time is spent arguing about whether or not the door is dangerous. Something is obviously going on but we don’t even get a vague hint, it just seems like this hill turns people into assholes who get violent with one-another eventually. This whole mess could be explained away as a gas leak, and the mysterious woman who may be a witch never does anything even vaguely menacing.
Sure, we have the drama and tension between the characters but we’ve all seen this story before and we’ve seen it done better. The characters do a decent job of setting themselves up at the beginning of the movie but soon slip comfortably into common tropes. The last third of the movie overstays itself in a big way and all it builds up to is a stupidly inevitable ending and a stinger that’s incredibly nonsensical and lame.
If you’re looking for a tense military horror movie with a palpable sense of dread and a mostly unseen threat then you’d be better served watching Deathwatch or Southern Comfort.
In spite of the storyline issues, The Squad is a very well-made movie. The acting is solid and the human moments between characters work pretty well. Easily the most disappointing aspect of this movie is how it almost works. The atmosphere is eerie and desolate that makes me wish I liked this more.
If Jaime Marquez can learn to stick the landing better, then he has a very promising career ahead of him. As it is, The Squad feels like the rough draft of a better movie and disappoints where it could have easily dazzled.
As with all of Scream’s newer movies, the special features aren’t very showy. There’s a making of documentary and a theatrical trailer. The disc is is 1080p High-Def Widescreen (2.35:1) with DTS HD Master audio. The movie is presented in the original Spanish with the option of English subtitles.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars