The press materials accompanying 36 PASOS (36 STEPS) describe the film as a horror/comedy, but it was no more a comedy than Romero’s DAWN OF THE DEAD. Or perhaps its brand of sub-titled Argentinian humor didn’t quite translate. Not that it matters. As it stands, 36 PASOS is a gritty and captivating horror film that—while not for everyone—will certainly please the courageous genre fan. Frankly, it was like nothing I’ve ever seen.
A half-dozen young women are abducted one-by-one and sequestered in a suburban home where they are forced to live together, frolic in bikinis, and plan a birthday party. They’re not quite sure WHY they’ve been kidnapped, but the birthday party preparations seem to be a pretty integral to their capture. If they attempt to flee, a fat, bearded man wearing a wool cap with ear flaps will appear out of nowhere and briefly torture and/or kill them. The women know they’re being watched because every time they try to discuss their plight or their chances of escape, the fat bearded man with ear flaps pops into the room and clubs whoever is blabbing. Eventually the women are psychologically pitted against each other and the movie starts to get really interesting.
The characters are established through brief, rugged flashbacks that are capped by each respective female getting sedated and abducted by bearded ear flaps guy. There isn’t much character history to go on, and the Spanish dialogue comes awfully fast (and by extension, so do the subtitles), which makes it occasionally hard to follow.
But there is so much to like about 36 PASOS: random montages with the girls dancing or swimming in bikinis, the outdated late-60s-era film score, the freaky and surreal brain-washing scene, the totally spontaneous attacks by bearded ear flap guy, the thrifty but effective gore. I guess it does sort of sound like a comedy, doesn’t it? Essentially, it’s director Adrian Garcia Bogliano’s energetic vision that makes 36 PASOS such a compelling success. No matter what the budget, it only takes minutes of film to recognize raw talent behind the camera, and Bogliano’s got it. As I mentioned previously, 36 PASOS is a highly bizarre piece of cinema that isn’t recommended for everyone, but it’s easily the best B-horror film I’ve seen this year.