The Squad (2012)

War bunkers are always a bad place for soldiers to go in a horror film. From The Bunker to Outpost to The Devil’s Rock, they’re places to seriously avoid, and in Columbian horror The Squad it’s no different. But what’re these poor soldiers facing this time? Ghosts? Zombies? Nazi experiments gone wrong? None of the above! Their opponents are themselves… and a strange mute woman bricked up behind a wall.

A squad of nine Columbian soldiers are sent to a remote outpost to see what befell the previous occupants, feared killed by the local guerrillas. What they find is a lot of blood, no bodies and no sign of a fire-fight. Settling in to defend the bunker, one of the squad finds a room daubed in strange symbols and discovers – to his horror – a woman trapped behind a brick wall.

They release her, expecting her to talk, but find her unwilling or unable to communicate. Left with no answers and a dangerously thick fog rolling in, the soldiers start to panic and question their orders… and then the woman goes missing and everything goes horribly horribly wrong.

The Squad builds confusion brilliantly, delivering a constant sense of dread, panic and mistrust throughout. This would have perhaps been best served gradually as the squad of soldiers are never seen as a cohesive unit in the first place, so their descent into chaos and inter-squadron violence doesn’t come as a huge surprise.

Unfortunately the film is also difficult to take seriously at times considering there are characters named Negro and Ponce, the latter being an offensively amusing insult for homosexual rapists… although that’s no fault of the creators.

The characters are all pretty-much interchangeable, with the only noticeable ones being Negro, Indian, the evil Sergeant and the snivelling Lieutenant. Everyone else just seems like one character spilt into many parts. Suffering from the Alien 3 ‘they all look and dress the same!’ issue, it becomes very difficult to care for anyone who’s not racistly named or a little dweeb.

Director and co-writer Jaime Osorio Marquez does create a dark and dirty world, with thick greys and deep pockets of black that make The Squad a morbidly fascinating watch. Bloody, horrible and brutal in places, it’s a film that very gradually grows on you. Unfortunately it just takes too long to become compelling viewing; the first thirty minutes meander needlessly and it’s a real shame.

For fans of war-based horror films this is an interesting addition to a worn sub-genre; it focuses on the maddening psychological impact of war-crimes on soldiers and – smartly – never clearly states what is causing the men’s descent into brutal in-fighting and insanity. Is it them? Is it the bunker? Is it a witch? It’s a darkly clever little film that won’t change games or win awards but will certainly entertain, intrigue and occasionally disturb.

Rating: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.