The Squad

Dir: Jaime Osorio Marquez
Star: Juan David Restrepo, Andrés Castañeda, Mauricio Navas, Daniela Catz

A military unit are sent to a mountaintop, shrouded in fog, where a comms post has come under guerilla attack before contact was lost. On arrival, they find no-one: no engineers, no guerillas, and the only body appears to have killed himself. What there is, however, is a fair amount of blood. One of the troops hears tapping coming from behind a freshly-built wall covered in Santeria symbols. Breaking it down, she finds a woman (Catz), who professes to know nothing about what happened to the previous occupants. However, a journal is located (s'funny how often those conveniently turn up, isn't it?), detailing how they seemed to think she was a witch, responsible for killing some of their number, which is why she was walled up. It's not long before more dead bodies start piling up, resulting in mounting paranoia among the dwindling band of survivors: are there supernatural forces at work, or something more prosaic?

There's a very nice set-up to this, with a great location which really captures the isolation and eerie atmosphere, as the soldiers trudge round the mist-wrapped buildings and paths, uncertain of what may lurk out there. Unfortunately, the main lesson learned here is that, yes, there is a limit to the amount of soliders trudging round mist-wrapped building and paths that is of interest - this film sails past that amount, and keeps right on going. The characters never really become much more than caricatures, e.g. a gruff sergeant, superstitious Indian, naive commander, and by the end are almost interchangeable as they meet their various fates. I suspect this might have worked a good deal better as a 30-minute short, except that it really is all about ratcheting up tension. Although Marquez is pretty good at doing so, there needs to be an adequate payoff: here's there's just not enough point, and I reached the end feeling more than slightly cheated.

[July 2012]

Mountain tension
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