Directed by Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia.
Starring Ivan Massague, Zoron Eguileor, Antonia San Juan.
Horror, Spain, 94 minutes, 18.


Now streaming on NetFlicks


In a week which finds the country beleaguered by a pandemic, which in turn has caused unprecedented panic buying of food and essentials nationwide, this grisly Spanish horror arrives on our screens coming across as spookily prescient. Set entirely within a vast complex, a platform floats down from floor to floor, laden with all sorts of decadent and beautifully presented food. As the platform floats further down the food gets scarcer, leaving those in lower levels with little as those above gorge themselves for survival.


Why our protagonist Goreng, Massague, is taking part in such a cruel exercise soon becomes apparent and further enforces the films premise into a bizarre nightmare scenario. Allowed to take one item with him for his stay, his copy of Don Quixote seems completely inappropriate, especially when compared to his old cell mates' huge, self-sharpening knife.  Trimagasi, his cell mates manners immediately set the tone and rules of the hard scrabble and mortal existence that leaves them at the mercy of "The Administration." With the subtlety of a sledgehammer, what unfolds is a metaphor of the evils of capitalism and entitlement.


Even without the situation that we sadly find ourselves in at this present time, THE PLATFORM would come across as timely. As Trimagasi remarks, gleefully, at one point "The people below us are below us!" The issues of being at the mercy of those above, literally in the film's case, seem to be with us for as far as we can imagine but such issues work in the films favour instead of coming across as an angry rant. The screenplay by David Desola and Pedro Rivera manages to draw the viewer into its claustrophobic scenario, keeping them hooked for its duration. The controlled location of the film and its design is reminiscent of CUBE and more than matches that film's inventiveness in making the most out of its seemingly small resources.


Making his debut as a director, Gaztelu-Urrutia delivers a supremely confident first feature here. The film has a smart visual style that keeps the film aesthetically tactile, and he also manages to keep its pace propulsive through its increasing grimness. The shocks are well-timed, and he manages to keep the story on the right side of oppressive, preventing it from sliding into depressing dreariness. It takes a considerable skill to turn an act of cannibalism into a transgressively tender act of survival and mercy, and the performances here help also.


Massague, who may be familiar from PAN'S LABYRINTH, portrays a character who goes through a formidable transformation both physically and mentally. Increasingly bloodied, he guides the audience along on his journey as he seemingly randomly flits from floor to floor. His bloody journey displays not only the depths of depravity and desperation that a person can be driven to but also the small acts of courage and solidarity that can stand up against a system that seems increasingly hell bent on setting the deck against them.


THE PLATFORM proves itself as a horror film that delivers on an impressive number of levels. Allegorically and metaphorically it could come across as heavy-handed in these divisive times. Still, it manages to put its points across to everyone with its gruesome scenario and its compulsively bloody nightmare logic.


Iain MacLeod


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