The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Digital] - ROPES | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Digital] - ROPES

ropes film review
A young quadriplegic fights for her life when her service dog turns violent.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Jose Luis Montesinos

Starring: Paula Del Rio, Miguel Angel Jenner, Jordi Aguilar

ropes film poster

Who’s a good boy then? Who’s a good boy?! Not Athos, the breakout character of Yako Blesa and José Luis Montesinos’ efficient thriller Ropes, that’s for sure. Athos is an exceptionally handsome German Shepard, all gleaming coat and immutable canine muscle. His pelt is the deep brown of finest Lindt, with darker fur about his serious doggy head and ever alert ears, just like a black mask. Athos is the support dog for what is left of a beleaguered Spanish family: Elena, who is a young paraplegic in a wheelchair, and her dad Miguel, who is a broken man on the sauce. Both are in the fallout of a recent trauma, which is signposted in the opening scenes by the loaded visual of a bunch of flowers tied to a busy freeway’s buffer. Can the two forge a new life for themselves and put the past behind them? Not in this dog-eat-dog world.

ropes film review

Father and daughter rock up at their new house; hollowly spacious to accommodate Elena’s newly constrained circumstances, a big house isolated from the rest of civilisation. The problem is that Athos only goes and attacks a bat, who happens to be rabid (infected bats! Haven’t you - allegedly - caused enough trouble this year?!). This triggers Athos to go the full Cujo within minutes of the film’s lean and mean run time. Aww, he was only trying to do his job, after all!

Sick as a dog now, protective Athos becomes a threat; man’s best friend becomes, if not its worst enemy, then at least an urgent danger to a young girl whose mobility is limited to basic hand movements (the ‘ropes’ of the title obliquely refer to the cables tied to the door handles which Elena would not otherwise be able to reach). To make matters worse, Miguel keels over and goes into cardiac arrest just as Athos begins to play up, leaving Elena alone with the fervent dog and her pet chinchilla - who is, frankly, no help at all in this unfortunate sequence of events.

ropes film review

Disregarding Oscar orientated fare wherein disability is the defining feature of both drama and character, horror gives disabled representation a higher prominence than other films, a testament to horror’s ability to feature topics and aspects of life which remain taboo to mainstream genres: Franklin in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, that kid in Friday the Thirteenth 2, Silver Bullet and, perhaps most poignantly, poor old Will in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3, are examples.

The film which Ropes cleaves most closely to, though, is The Curse of Chucky (with a bit of Gerald’s Game too, perhaps) - however, unlike that nastily effective little film, the threat here is not a devious doll, but an unwell animal who for the most part is a menace prowling about outside the house, or who, in the event of Athos finally managing to sneak in, is just about able to engage in what can only be described as low-speed wheelchair chases. I will confess, due to the continued lack of tangible peril regarding Elena, I was hoping against hope for a twist that revealed Athos was simply trying to protect her all along, in his own confused but loyal and rabid way...

ropes film review

Within this dramatic checkmate, the film introduces further horror elements, such as the ghost-twin of Elena, and heart-breaking flashbacks to the moments leading up to the accident, an event for which Elena may or may not have been culpable. This is where Ropes more fully realises its ambitions, as a horror film which explores the complexities of grief and guilt. As novel a twist on the home invasion as it may be, the pseudo-Cujo aspects of Ropes are a bit of a dog’s dinner. However, in its thought-provoking and emotive undertones, Ropes proves that its bite is far more effective than its bark.

Ropes is on UK Digital from November 19th.

2020 movie reviews