The Movie Waffler New Release Review - QUICKSAND | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - QUICKSAND

Quicksand review
An estranged couple must work together when they become stuck in quicksand.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Andrés Beltrán

Starring: Carolina Gaitàn, Allan Hawco, Sebastian Eslava, Andrés Castañeda

Quicksand poster

The survival thriller is a more intimate cousin of the disaster movie. Where disaster movies give us dozens of potential victims in an open setting like a city or a cruise ship, survival thrillers focus on a small group of protagonists, usually just one or two, in a confined setting. A common trope of the disaster movie is the estranged couple who learn to love one another again through surviving an ordeal or averting disaster. It's an idea that director Andrés Beltrán and screenwriter Matt Pitts hone in on for their Colombian-set survival thriller Quicksand.

The estranged couple here are American doctor Josh (Allan Hawco) and his Colombian wife Sofia (Carolina Gaitan), who gave up her own medical career to raise their two kids. Separated for three months, Josh and Sofia are awkwardly reunited when they're both invited to speak at a medical seminar in Bogota. Sofia doesn't seem too happy to be returning to her homeland but Josh is excited to go hiking in the nearby forest.

Quicksand review

Resenting Josh's claims that she's no fun, Sofia agrees to accompany him on a morning hike. The pair are warned to stay away from a snake-infested stretch of woods known as Las Arenas but an encounter with an armed bandit sees them flee into the area, hoping he won't dare follow them. When Sofia gets stuck in quicksand, Josh jumps in to save her, which leaves them both literally up to their necks in trouble. As if that wasn't bad enough, there's a very large snake roaming the vicinity.

As a kid I had an irrational fear of quicksand. It was such a common trope in 1980s movies, TV shows and comic books that I was convinced any patch of mud might suddenly suck you into its clammy jaws. In the decades since it's largely disappeared as a plot device, though it did make a nostalgic reappearance in the much maligned Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, a nod to how often quicksand would appear in the classic serials that initially inspired Lucas and Spielberg's series. As such, I was curious to see how a modern thriller might employ this dusty old trope. It's disappointing to see that very little is done with the premise. In a move that old scientific stick in the mud Neil deGrasse Tyson might approve of, we're told that in reality quicksand doesn't actually suck you down, it just traps you like hardening cement. Where's the fun in that? Come on folks, print the legend!

Quicksand review

Instead, the main threat here comes from the snake, making Quicksand something of a covert humans vs nature movie. It's noted early on that Sofia is a vegetarian, citing her reasons as being unwilling to eat anything "that has a mother." You would expect this to play into her reaction to having to potentially kill the snake, which it seems is motivated by protecting one of her eggs that has also gotten stuck in the quicksand. But no, Sofia simply transforms into a big game hunter without so much as a second thought when it becomes clear it's the snake vs Adam and Eve, sorry, Josh and Sofia.

The best survival thrillers keep finding ways to ramp up the tension by constantly throwing new obstacles at the protagonists. Two great examples are the recent vertiginous thriller Fall and the Ryan Reynolds vehicle Buried. Like Quicksand, both of those movies put their heroes in confined spaces with seemingly no way out, but Beltrán and Mills never come up with any spanners to throw in the works besides that snake. Granted, that should be one hell of an obstacle, but it's dealt with in a fashion that's simply too hard to swallow.

Quicksand review

Quicksand gets bogged down (sorry) in Josh and Sofia trashing out the reasons why their relationship failed. Much of the film resembles a bottle episode of a TV show, like that Dallas episode where JR and Bobby got stuck in a lift together and used the time to reconcile their differences. The trouble here is that we're never given a solid motivation to root for Josh and Sofia to get back together. Neither of them is particularly likeable – Josh is smarmy while Sofia is a moaning Minnie – so perhaps we're supposed to hope they reunite so they don't inflict themselves on anyone else. It would be nice for one of these movies to admit that some people can work together to survive an ordeal, but that doesn't mean they belong together romantically.

 is on Shudder from July 14th.

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