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The Squad aka El Páramo (Blu-ray Review)

SquadScream Factory’s latest dip into the modern era of horror comes to us from Columbia in the form of the film The Squad.  It revolves around a military group in search of what caused some lost communication at a base that has gone dark.  I really got to go into this film completely blind, as I really couldn’t find many stats on it in my research.  Looking for stats or a production history on this thing sort of came empty from the normal generic information places (Because I’d like to avoid spoilers.  But, since its got the Scream Factory brand label to it, you know they saw something in the film and it’ll be pretty much worth the watch.

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Film 

A special command of experienced soldiers is sent to a military base in a moor of Colombia.  Believe to have been the result of a guerrilla attack, contact has been lost.  A peasant woman chained up is the only living being found when the soldiers arrive. The isolation the inability to communicate with the outside world combined with the impossibility to escape begins to undermine the integrity and sanity of the soldiers.  Soon they start to lose the certainties about the identity of the enemy and creating doubts about the true nature of the peasant woman.

There is a lot to like about The Squad, but then again there’s something about it that’s not quite there with the film.  This film is full of suspenseful buildups.  There are many scenes of discovery, tense investigation and uneasy silent situations that are well crafted and produced.  However, a lot of them don’t lead to anything and one after another after another they begin to lose their luster.  When there is something at the end of it, its highly rewarding (the discovery of the woman and some moments toward the close of the film).  This winds up being all build and really no reward.  Granted this was probably a low budget picture that wanted to keep things minimal, it seemed to want to promise much more in terms of reveals as it went along.

Whoever produced this I must give some props.  This film at time feels like it could have easily wound up being a found footage movie.  Instead, we get a fully fledged regular film narrative/experience.  What they have done, is take things that do work well using that aesthetic and managed to translate them effortlessly into a regular film.  No, nothing is done first person or from a camera someone is using.  It just has many suspense scenes that sort of evoke that feeling, look and experience you have when watching the suspense scenes of found footage.  Maybe this is the sort of progression horror should look to taking with transcending from found footage or taking the next steps with it as it starts to lose its charm and luster.

The Squad is a pretty solid horror film that I wish could have just been a little more than what it was.  Its got a unique situation you don’t see often with military-horror.  The performances are pretty good and a lot of the scares and suspense scenes are done very well.  There’s just too many build-up scenes that don’t amount to anything that feel back-to-back-to-back that start losing their impact after a while.  If you’re a fan of the found footage aesthetic, you should definitely check this out as it does evoke the feeling of watching one of those without being one.  Maybe its the super intimate setting.  This film is definitely worth a watch if you’re looking for some unique scares on a lonely fall night.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Clarity/Detail:  While the picture is intentionally bleached out, the film has a very vibrant look.  The image is also very sharp and strongly detailed.  Without the issues I have listed below, this would probably have it close to a perfect score.

Depth:  While most of this film is in close quarters, there are some really rich open field looks outside of the cave.  Plenty of detail resonating on both foreground and background images.

Black Levels:  Blacks are rich and almost their own character.  Crushing is minimal.  Lots of dark scenes purposely meant to leave one with a vague image.

Color Reproduction:  Blood red is the stand out here.  While nice, well rounded and bold, the colors are more natural.  There also isn’t much of a palette to choose from as the film mainly features browns and greens.

Flesh Tones:  Consistent and cold.  Close up have extremely high resolution and are loaded with all sorts of detail in the form of stubble, dried skin, cracks, wrinkles nicks and cuts.

Noise/Artifacts:  There were two digital related issues in the video I was able to repeat.  One around the 13 minute mark and one near the 32 minute mark.  These looked to be like what we used to call in my QC days “digital hits”.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics:  This is a really active, loud and fun track.  It really gives you a sense of place and carries a nice variety and accurate depiction of volume and placement with its sound effects.  Voice, effects and score are all blended nicely and none interferes with one another.  This track is a very nice experience as you sort of feel right with the characters.

Low Frequency Extension:  Your subwoofer gets plenty of work with score hits, jolts and action moments.

Surround Sound Presentation:  There’s plenty of spooky ambiance from the rear speakers.  There is also a lot of action in right and left interaction.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Loud, clean and clear.

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Extras 

The Squad has an image on the reverse side of the cover artwork.  Surprisingly for Scream Factory, these extras are in Standard Definition.

Behind The Squad (Making Of) (SD, 20:00) – A series of what appears to be promotional videos for the film.  These feature behind the scenes footage and on set interviews with cast and crew.  It also tries to make its own little story of the production.

Theatrical Trailer (SD, 1:47)

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Summary 

The Squad is a pretty solid horror film with the unique military setting.  I really enjoy how much they put to use some of the more effective techniques in found footage thrillers and managed to translate that feel into a normal film aesthetic.  There a couple trouble spots in the video transfer that seemed to have gotten by the QC process.  Aside from that the video and audio are quite stellar.  The bonus leaves a bit to be desired, but you never know who or what was available or legally able to be included with the release.  Once again, Scream Factory comes at you with a very unique film from the modern era of horror that should give you some solid thrills.

The-Squad-Blu-ray

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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