REVIEW: El Hoyo (2019)

Festival Release Poster – Basque Films; Mr. Miyagi Films; Plataforma La Película; A.I.E

The following is a review of El Hoyo, also known as The Platform — Directed by Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia.

I have been looking forward to this movie for close to six months. I heard it described as one of the best horror films of 2019 and one of the coolest movie concepts of that year. People whose opinions I pay attention to were praising this movie so much that I ended up having fairly strong expectations for the film. Thankfully, Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia’s feature film directorial debut did not disappoint, even though the debut director failed to make his film stand out from other similar films.

Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia’s The Platform is a science-fiction horror film about a bizarre prison where inmates are paired up on a level in a multistorey building with a massive hole in the middle of both the floor and the ceiling of each level. Each day a platform filled with high-end food gradually descends the levels of the tower until it reaches the bottom and no food is left. Each month the inmates, all of whom have the opportunity to bring one item with them into the prison, are placed on a random level of the building, and if they are not in the top fifty levels, then food is in short supply every day. The film follows Goreng (played by Iván Massagué), who has decided to stay in the prison for six months to earn a special certificate. Goreng took a copy of Miguel de Cervantes’ famous novel Don Quixote with him, and his cell-mate Trimagasai (played by Zorion Eguileor), an elderly man who has been in the prison for a very long time, has brought a kitchen knife with him. Although they become good friends at first, the next month’s level changes their relationship drastically.

I am a sucker for films with concepts such as the one in The Platform. One of the first science-fiction horror films that I was obsessed with was Vincenzo Natali’s Cube, and I’m also a big fan of Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer. Gaztelu-Urrutia’s film reminds me of both of the aforementioned science fiction cult classics. As I’m sure many critics will have remarked in their reviews, The Platform is essentially the vertical version of Snowpiercer, in which the poorest in society are grouped together into the back of the train and the richest are at the very front of the train. The Platform is very similar. It is a politically-conscious film about class, greed, gluttony, and the prevailing ideologies in different generations that tend to divide us. But, as I was watching The Platform, I also couldn’t stop myself from thinking about Denis Villeneuve’s 2008 short satire film Next Floor, in which we see wealthy individuals feasting on copious amounts of food until they fall through the floor of each and every level of a multistorey building. What I am trying to establish is that although The Platform is built on a very neat concept, and even though it deals with interesting themes, almost everything about it has been done previously.

The Platform, though very good, is very unoriginal, and it is also quite unsubtle. The main characters are basically stand-ins for ideologies, generations, or concepts. The writing is never needlessly complicated, and Gaztelu-Urrutia does get the most out of the concept, even though the ending is a little bit of a disappointment. It has moments that are nauseating and moments with brutal violence. Gaztelu-Urrutia and his crew achieve what they set out to do with stomach-churning sound effects, and a couple of scenes featuring a woman and her pet, that made me avert my eyes due to sheer anxiety. While Massagué’s passionate protagonist may be a solid audience-surrogate, it is Zorion Eguileor who gives the most memorable performance. Eguileor’s character gets inside the head of the main character, and, due to Equileor’s very entertaining and delightfully exaggerated performance, he may get stuck in your head too.

Featuring effective sound design and a memorable performance, The Platform, director Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia’s feature film debut, is an effective science-fiction horror film with something on its mind. However, it is also a very unsubtle film, and, even though the concept that the film is built on is very entertaining, almost everything about it has been done before elsewhere.

7 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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