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Squad, The (Blu-ray / DVD)

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The Squad

The SquadStarring Juan Pablo Barragán, Alejandro Aguilar, Mauricio Navas, Juan David Restrepo

Directed by Jaime Osorio Marquez

Distributed by The Scream Factory


Colombia is generally known for two exports – cocaine and neckties. They are not much of a blip on the radar of cinema. Colombians have been making movies since the 1910s, but the only real breakout hit to emerge from there has been Maria, Full of Grace (2004), which was a joint production with the U.S. – and it was about one of their two main exports. Lately, however, their film output has grown drastically from three-to-six films a year to now around a dozen. If first-time director Jaime Osorio Marquez’s The Squad (El Paramo) (2011) is any indication of what the country can offer us horror fans, let’s hope they continue on that path of increased production. What I had expected to be a low-budget, overdone zombie movie (don’t ask why I thought zombies because it isn’t a zombie movie) turned out to be a methodical, psychological thriller that is heavy on implication and extremely light on viscera… possibly to a fault. Anchored by some truly strong, emotionally powerful performances The Squad is just now – three years after its release – getting some buzz courtesy of Scream Factory.

A group of soldiers is ordered to hike up to a remote mountainside military base when contact is lost with those stationed there. The austere fortress is shrouded in a cloak of fog, miles from any civilization. The men enter cautiously, expecting to be ambushed by guerillas who they presume have overtaken the base. Their trepidation turns to confusion when they reach the summit and, after a quick search, find no one present. There are no bodies, no bloodshed and nothing has been stolen, ruling out the possibility of a guerilla attack. During their continued search, however, one of the men hears a woman cry out from behind a wall. They quickly break it down and release her from the shackles in which she had been placed. But some of the men are no so quick to come to her aid, believing she was placed there for a reason. This woman had been intentionally hidden away, items consistent with black magic carefully placed around her makeshift tomb. Paranoia begins to breed.

The soldiers’ concern is only exacerbated when logs are found detailing the last few days of the men stationed there, suggesting the woman may be a witch. As night falls and the men begin to realize leaving the base won’t be as easy as their arrival, the squad settles in for a long night of mistrust and suspicion. The woman, meanwhile, has vanished with no one able to account for her whereabouts. Who will survive until morning?

Praise goes to Marquez for playing his cards so close to the vest and resisting the urge to show them – at all. The Squad excels at building a tense atmosphere where the real threat appears to be the men themselves, not this supposed witch they came upon. In some ways this is reminiscent of The Thing (1982), which no doubt was a big influence here. When we first meet this group of soldiers, they’re a tight unit; a makeshift family that works together and cares deeply for one another. Once the “witch” is discovered, almost immediately these relationships begin to deteriorate. Is there some sinister arcane force behind it all?

It’s not an entirely smooth ride to finding out. After a promising, intriguing start the film suffers some heavy lag in the middle. Marquez would have done well to trim a good ten minutes and tighten up the pacing. The plot appears to be aimless for this stretch before reeling viewers back in with a prolonged third act that sees the unit completely crumble under the weight of an unseen force. It is during this time that the actors emote with furious passion. There really isn’t a single lead actor here; every man plays an important role in the story. Of course, there always has to be one person the audience can root for – and that would be Ponce (Juan Pablo Barragan). He has the heart of a fearless soldier yet he is overcome with emotion as he keeps a level head while recognizing the inhumanity expressed by some of his compatriots. All of the men are run through an emotional gauntlet, which brings out the best and worst of their capabilities.

Kudos to Scream Factory for giving foreign horrors a home on their label, exposing fans to international cinema that would have been easy to miss otherwise. Not every title they’ve selected has been a winner (I’m looking at you, Dead Shadows), but when a minor gem like The Squad makes the roster it’s a reminder that good films are out there – right now – waiting to be discovered.

And speaking of discovery, the film’s final shot is provocatively haunting.

Bathed in atmosphere and enshrouded in darkness, the film’s 2.35:1 1080p image handles extremely well no matter the conditions. Most apparent – and impressive – are the details evident in every shot – worn lines in a soldier’s face, the textures on uniforms, mud & sweat caked on skin – there’s nary a soft shot in the entire picture. The color palette leans toward steely, gray hues with very few vibrant primaries on display. Shadow delineation is strong, especially when actors are cloaked in fog, and black levels appear consistent and rich. Alejandro Moreno’s cinematography utilizes minimal lighting, maintaining definition but allowing the film’s environment to feel genuine. This is a strong picture through and through.

Other than a weird audio defect that occurs around the 11-minute mark, the Spanish DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround sound track has a commanding presence. Despite the lack of major action, this is a robust, immersive track filled with powerful gunfire, some unsettling “juicy” gore sounds, and strong supportive bass. The sound design is quite dynamic, especially rears which are often filled with spooky string arrangements and faint dialogue. It’s creepy in all the right ways. A Spanish DTS-HD MA 2.0 track is also included, with subtitles available in English.

Behind The Squad (Making Of) shows off the film’s tough shoot, done high up in the mountains and requiring the crew to carry a lot of equipment up steep terrain. And to think they almost lost the location, as the government wavered on approving their request.

The film’s theatrical trailer is also included.

Special Features:

  • Behind The Squad (Making Of)
  • Theatrical trailer

  • Film
  • Special Features
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Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)

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We’ve all heard the old saying, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s only partially true. It seems there is a third certainty that had been omitted from the original quote, “It is certain, if you enjoy a movie, at some point someone will remake that movie.” Now is the time when one of my favorite movies gets reimagined, “for an American audience”.

In the late 2000’s an explosion of “French extreme” horror films was released. Martyrs and or High Tension can often be found on any number of lists of the “most fucked up horror movies ever”. Unfortunately, the vastly superior Inside is often forgotten (as well as Frontier(s), but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). Now, ten years after it’s initial release, Inside has been Americanized. Don’t worry, we watched it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.

Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true? It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 148!

If you like what you hear, please consider joining our Patreon subscribers. For less than the cost of a beer, you get bonus content, exclusive merchandise, special giveaways, and you get to help us continue doing what we love.

The Who Goes There Podcast is available to subscribe to on iTunes right here. Not an iTunes user? You can listen on our Dread Central page. Can’t get enough? We also do that social media shit. You’ll find us on FacebookTwitterInstagramTwitch, and YouTube.

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Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View

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Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly

Directed by Marcel Sarmiento


Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as

17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?

What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.

  • Film
2.0

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Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?

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IAMX’s Alive in New Light Review – A Dark, Hypnotic, and Stunning Musical Endeavor

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Recording eight albums is an achievement no matter the artist, group, or band. This is especially true for Chris Corner’s IAMX, his solo project after the trip hop group Sneaker Pimps, which has enchanted listeners since 2004’s Kiss + Swallow with its dark electronic aesthetic. There’s something fascinating about the music Corner puts out as IAMX. Perhaps it’s the underlying melancholy that seems to pervade the music, almost certainly a result of the musician’s battle with depression and chronic insomnia [Source]. Perhaps it’s the unexpected melodies that reveal themselves with each new measure. Whatever it is, IAMX’s music is a constant delight.

On Alive in New Light, Corner reveals that his eighth album was a product he created as a way of “…breaking free from demons that have long plagued him,” per an official press release. Strangely enough, this uplifting attitude may easily be overlooked but repeat listens unveil a sense of hope and wonder that are simply breathtaking. The title track echoes with almost angelic choir pads that positively shine as Corner exultingly cries in a shimmering falsetto, “I’m alive in new light!” This comes after the Depeche Mode-esque “Stardust”, which offers the first collaboration with Kat Von D, whose pure voice is a beautiful addition to the pulsating track.

The third track, “Break The Chains”, has an opening that immediately called to mind Birds of Tokyo’s “Discoloured”, which is meant as a compliment. It’s followed by the Nine Inch Nails influenced “Body Politics”, which meshes Corner’s crooning vocals with a 90’s industrial backdrop. “Exit” has an almost sinister progression lurking in the background that builds to an aggressive, in-your-face third act. The cinematic Middle Eastern flairs of “Stalker” mutate effortlessly into a heartbeat pulse that features back-and-forth vocals between Corner and Von D. The haunted circus vibe that permeates through “Big Man” is mirrored by its playful gothic aura, ghostly “oohs” and “aahs” sprinkled carefully here and there.

While the album has been a delight up to this point, it’s the final two tracks that took my breath away and left me stunned. “Mile Deep Hollow” builds layer after layer while Corner passionately cries out, “So thank you/you need to know/that you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow/and I love you/you brought me home/because you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow.” The way the song’s melodies back these wonderfully uplifting lyrics feels grand and epic, as though a journey is coming to an end, which is where “The Power and the Glory” comes in. Far more subdued, it’s a beautiful song that feels almost like a religious experience, a hymn of a soul that is desperate to claw its way to salvation and escape a life of pain and darkness.

What makes Alive in New Light so wonderful is how much there is to experience. I got the album and listened to it no less than five times in a row without pause. I simply couldn’t turn it off because each return revealed something new in the music. Corner also makes fantastic use of Von D’s vocals, carefully placing them so as to make them a treat and not a commonplace certainty.

While some may be disappointed that there are only nine tracks, each of the songs is carefully and meticulously crafted to be as powerful and meaningful as possible. It really is a stunning accomplishment and I’m nothing short of blown away by how masterfully Alive in New Light plays out.

  • Alive in New Light
5.0

Summary

IAMX’s Alive in New Light is a triumph of music. Full of beauty and confidence, it doesn’t forget the foundation that fans have come to know and love for over a decade but instead embraces that comfortable darkness with open arms. Corner states that this album was a way to break free from his demons. It certainly feels like he’s made peace with them.

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