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Wide World of Horror: ‘El páramo (The Squad’) – once a soldier always a soldier

Wide World of Horror: ‘El páramo (The Squad’) – once a soldier always a soldier

El páramo (The Squad)download


Screenplay by Jaime Osorio Marquez
Directed by Jaime Osorio Marquez
Argentina/Colombia/Spain, 2011

The basic conceit of El páramo is what ultimately holds the film back. Try as it might the film can never move past what it presents in its opening minutes. That’s not a good trait in a film, usually at least. El páramo tries to move past its opening scenes and present the squad as having been altered by their discovery, but that’s a lie within the film. There’s no reason that the film couldn’t have done something with its lie, but instead it tries to present said lie as a truth. The question that the film ends up asking is, how can a squad that doesn’t function properly be changed into a squad that doesn’t function properly?

The answer to the above question is that they can’t be changed. The squad in El páramo is dysfunctional from the word go and yet for whatever reason the movie never recognizes this. As the film progresses it attempts to present a squad of soldiers being torn apart by some sort of outside force. The main way it conveys this is through the soldiers refusing to cooperate with one another or follow the chain of command. That was the case at the beginning of the movie though, and it’s never clear why the screenplay decides to ignore those initial minutes of the squad disobeying orders and not getting along.

With the conceit failing the other horror elements that the film strives for fall down easily. The atmosphere never quite clicks because it’s predicated on the supposedly newly dysfunctional relationship between the soldiers. The discoveries that take place during the film never feel like actual discoveries because there’s nothing to be discovered. El páramo wants very badly to put forth the idea that as the squad has changed so has the atmosphere and so have the aims of the film. However, since the squad hasn’t actually changed that makes all the other changes feel like so much fake money.

Squad2

There isn’t much for Jaime Osorio Marquez to be proud of with his film. He tries a few tricks that would have been interesting with a much better base to work from. That base is never properly established and because of that everything that follows is disingenuous in a most egregious manner. El páramo isn’t a terrible film, it’s simply a film that has no legs upon which to stand. Without those legs every element of the film falls flat and that results in a rather dull viewing experience.

-Bill Thompson

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