Movie Review ~ Quicksand (2023)

The Facts:

Synopsis: An American couple on the brink of divorce travel to Colombia for a work conference. While hiking through the rainforest, a storm causes them to become trapped in a pit of quicksand. Unable to move, it becomes a struggle for survival as they battle the elements of the jungle and a venomous snake to escape.
Stars: Allan Hawco, Carolina Gaitán, Andrés Castañeda, Sebastian Eslava
Director: Andrés Beltrán
Rated: NR
Running Length: 86 minutes
TMMM Score: (5/10)
Review:  We’re getting used to our chills and thrills being fed to us (more like thrown at us) by an industry that often doesn’t take the time to think through what they’re selling. That’s why the horror film genre is often seen as a less than noble offering than even sillier niche fare that is considerably less satisfying. Market saturation has provided little room for artistic creativity, so the construct of any form is next to nothing. There’s something to be said about the simplicity of tension building, and that’s where a film like Quicksand could potentially gain a lot of momentum in a viewer’s eyes.

Though a low-budget effort that can’t help but be bogged down by a soggy middle act, Quicksand provides 86 minutes of something fright fans don’t always get: Interesting characters that have actual human conversations while finding themselves in a uniquely awful situation. As far-fetched as the set-up may seem, it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility, giving the film its extra oomph of shivers. Even though the producers have been slightly misleading as to what Quicksand is truly about by signing off on marketing that is enticing but ever so slightly false, it isn’t a film that sinks into the throwaway muck as many have.

An estranged couple has arrived in Colombia so Josh (Alan Hawco) can speak at a conference at the invite of his friend Marcos (Sebastian Eslava). The power struggle between Josh and Sofia (Carolina Gaitán, Encanto) is evident from the beginning. If their children and busy lives at home weren’t enough, Sofia’s resentment over leaving her medical practice when she married is starting to bubble up again. On an early morning hike through a remote part of the Colombian jungle (which they were warned to stay away from, naturally), they get into another argument after encountering a petty thief from their hotel, and Sofia storms off…only to find herself stuck in a thick pool of quicksand.

Stuck up to her armpits in muck which she cannot break free from, Josh tries to come to her aid but only winds up becoming stuck himself. Having ventured far off the path due to the burglar, they know no one will be looking for them anytime soon. They must stop their bickering and work together to get themselves out of the froth that holds them tight. If that weren’t enough, they find the quicksand has some special surprises, and before long, they come literally face to face with a snake who nests nearby that slithers along to see what all the clamoring is about.

Surprisingly, what could have been a rough slog through the bog is helped by screenwriter Matt Pitts (a former assistant to J.J. Abrams) and director Andrés Beltrán who keep the film moving forward in a narratively exciting way. Flipping back between the stuck couple and their friend Marcos as he pieces together first that the pair is missing and second that someone at the hotel knows where they are, breaks up the potential monotony of watching Josh and Sofia sit without moving for over an hour. That’s not to say it’s an entirely smooth ride. It’s an incredibly talky picture, especially in the middle third, with the horror elements less prominent than the poster and trailer would have you believe.

Lucky for us, the two leads are engaging enough to want to watch them in the close-ups Beltrán and cinematographer Santiago Otoya favor. Visually, it’s not the prettiest picture to look at, and even the shots from the POV of the snake come off as amateurish. With less money to work with, the effects just aren’t there. While I appreciate that many of these effects were practical, Quicksand is missing several vital shots that would fill in some of the blanks left out by not having the budget to show gore effects fully. Your mind may be able to create them in your head…but in a barebones effort like this, should we?

I’d still recommend giving this one a twirl because Hawco and Gaitán work well off one another, and conceptually, the film is sound. Quicksand does come off as a title that might have benefited from either some heavy editing to get it down to the length of a short film with a tauter gait toward the frights or a lengthier psychological suspense that focused more on the relationship drama/marriage counseling that starts to play out in the middle. 

Streaming on Shudder July 14

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