Shout! Factory is known for giving new life to lost treasures in the genre with beautiful transfers and awesome special features. For that I am forever a loyal customer and I’m willing to give their independent movies a chance. I received The Squad in the mail and it sounded like a sort of Dog Soldiers and The Keep hybrid which sounded pretty badass to me. (Warning: Review could contain minor spoilers and major ones are noted within)
The Squad (aka El Paramo) centers around a military group of 9 guys sent to check out a base where another group is supposed to be located. Communication has been lost and the men are sent to find out what happened to them. Upon arrival the men discover everyone has seemingly disappeared except for one gnarled looking woman who has been walled up inside the camp. Surrounding her are numerous symbols to ward off evil including a chicken’s foot and a cross of salt on the ground. When the men pull her out they find she is bound by the hands. The unknown woman screeches when she sees the symbols around the room and the men quickly get rid of them. One of the men, Indio, is convinced the woman is a witch while the others think she is part of the enemy and this begins the whole rest of the plot.
When I said this movie sounded like Dog Soldiers and The Keep I wasn’t lying, it really sounded like a cool concept. After all we don’t see a lot of genuinely good witch movies anymore. But the thing that separates The Squad from a movie like Dog Soldiers is that it never pays off in the monster area. The rest of the movie shows the soldiers slowly (excruciatingly so) going mad and turning on each other but the movie goes out of its way to make it seem like it isn’t a witch at all and that it’s just paranoia.
So my question is this? Why get a truly creepy witch to be in the movie for all of 5 minutes and put so much emphasis on the symbolism only to completely disregard it later? And if it is a story just about paranoia then why (MAJOR SPOILER!!) show us the supposed witch again at the end if you already explained all the creepy happenings sans witchcraft?
It feels like this is two different movies and after a little research on IMDB I understand why. The Squad had 2 writers AND a script consultant. Unfortunately, this is just the result of too many ideas never coming to fruition. Ultimately, we get a really good looking movie visually that never goes anywhere or does anything new. Which is the real tragedy here because, as I said, a really good witch movie is something pretty rare these days. A movie about soldiers being paranoid and turning on each other? Not so much.
As for the Blu-ray itself, Shout! Factory always does a good job visually but for whatever reason I noticed a severe sync issue within the 5.1 sound option. I didn’t notice it for a while because the movie is in subtitles but there is a scene in which one of the soldiers throws open the door and causes a loud bang but the bang doesn’t come for a good 10 seconds or so. However, I found that in the audio settings you can change it to 2.1 and that completely fixes the sync issue. It could just be my copy but fair warning to those who seek this out.
The Squad does have potential and being director Jaime Osorio Marquez’s first feature I am willing to view this as a learning curve. Perhaps next time he should work with one writer and a better editor because I can see hope for him in the future. The movie has out since 2011 but this is, as far as I know, the first time it’s been on BD/DVD. Anyone else see it?