El Hoyo (The Platform) (2019 Fantastic Fest)


Title: El Hoyo (The Platform) (2019 Fantastic Fest)
Rating: NR
Director: Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia
Starring: Ivan Massague, Antonia San Juan, Emilio Buale
Runtime: 1hr 34min

What It Is: Goreng (Massague) admits himself to live in a vertical prison called “The Pit” in order to receive a diploma. Within it, he awakes to find himself in a room on level 33 with an odd and mysterious older man, Trimagasi, who bit by bit reveals to Goreng the system of which the Pit operates by: depending on whichever level you are on (for that month) results in how much food you receive. A platform full of expensive foods is lowered through each of the levels, thus the lower the level the less and less food is available until there is none left. Struggling with his humanity and survival as the circumstances shift and change before him along with the levels, Goreng must find the strength within himself to see the way back outside.

What We Think: Try not to read to hard into the plot of which I divulged. The rest should be up to you to see for yourself. I (quite delightfully) felt kept in the dark through much of the film, only given as much information as the protagonist is; you are kept questioning what will happen next. If I were to describe this film in a broader fashion, it would be the situational brutality and commentary akin to works such as Cube and 1984. That being said, this Orwellian piece is sure to hook your attention from the start and suspend you for the rest of its increasingly intense duration. Overall a well-presented, dark, and at times humorous experience about the cruel nature and relationship of society its government, El Hoyo is expertly shot and beautifully set up. The production design for what it is (essentially the same-looking room repeated over an over again, only they’re stacked upon each other) is amazing and successfully atmospheric. The special effects makeup is miles more convincing than a huge majority of other films; it can be quite a bit gritty. The score is very prevalent, riddled with thematic motif yet doesn’t take away from the image, and I appreciate that. The acting, in short, could not be any better—the performances have me sold, even the smallest of roles ranging from empathetic to creepy. As cold as this world we’re given is, the way the leads are delivered makes the viewing more and more endearing. The pacing is very well done, a sort of slippery slope to a smartly written script focused on hungry, motivated, and entertaining characters.

Our Grade: B+, While it may not be on many people’s radars, hope to think that this movie will gain more traction and attention the more time goes on. I certainly recommend this film for those open to seeing a strong allegory on classism, greed, desperation, and where our instinct lies when we’re in a hole, pitted against each other.

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