Quicksand is a survival horror B-movie that delivers what it says on the tin yet shies away from escalating things to a highly entertaining degree.
For quite a while, Shudder has become the home of plenty of B-movie and Grindhouse-like pictures. It has been a safe haven for both old films that were played at a midnight slate at a drive-in (Ms. 45, The Switchblade Sisters) and new ones that are being given the spotlight they deserve, making horror fans delighted to check them out (Revealer, Allegoria). The platform’s latest original feature is Andre Beltran’s Quicksand, a film that calls back to the classic horror jungle survival flicks with a modern touch.
Quicksand begins with a crime side plot that adds nothing to the film’s narrative. Two people walk through treacherous paths, a mossy forest with plenty of dangers lurking around. We don’t know what they are searching for. However, during a quick briefing between two disconnected characters, it is mentioned that they were apparently hunting snakes. But all we know so far is that this setting will be the playground where director Andres Beltran experiments with jungle survival tropes, as one of the hunters gets trapped inside the titular colloid of fine granular material and water.
The film later transitions into showing a bit of backstory of the film’s leads, Sofia (Carolina Gaitán) and Josh (Allan Hawco), before it gives us what we are waiting for. They are having some marital issues, with a divorce coming their way as a means to end this relationship once and for all. Things are about to get even worse when they go to Colombia and visit a close friend of theirs, Marcos (Sebastián Eslava), who doesn’t know they are on the brink of separating. What happens between them doesn’t matter; in the long run, the rushed exposition dump leads these slowly separating partners to hike in the rainforest. The hotel’s concierge tells them they have two paths, one of which, called “las arenas” (the sands in English), they must avoid at all costs.
As they head to their destination, heavy rain comes down on them. It forces them to return to the hotel as they don’t want to get hurt. However, someone is breaking into their car as they head back. He has a gun and wants all their money and belongings. This is the same man we saw during the film’s first couple of minutes. But his presence and connection with the concierge here aren’t explained in the least. It felt like the writers forgot about this part of the story and left it like that to create more tension (and failed to do so). Nevertheless, after the altercation, the mysterious man threatens them, which causes Josh to “be the hero,” as Sofia describes, and attacks him.
Instead of taking his gun and pushing him aside, they decide to run away. This causes Sofia and Josh to go down the prohibited path to ensure they aren’t followed by the unnamed hunter and thief. But they get trapped inside quicksand, with time running out quickly for their survival.
Nothing that happens outside of the quicksand plot actually matters. The film is exactly what it says on the tin, nothing more and nothing less. This is a film about two people trapped inside a quicksand, fighting the dangers of the jungle, and trying to escape with their lives. You should approach this movie like Cocaine Bear and Sharknado, without the exaggeration emerging for its titular creature or catastrophe. The title says it all without any subtext. And it delivers what it promises, although with some unfortunate restrictions.
There are some thrilling moments where these characters fight for their lives as they slowly sink, which are suspenseful, as well as some gnarly animal action with some snakes and their venom. But the problem with Quicksand is that it holds back on more ridiculous situations in exchange for several moments where these two characters express their frustrations and admiration for one another, trying to figure out what could help their relationship heal before their demise. And I get that Andres Beltran and screenwriter Matt Pitts want to make the viewer care about them, which isn’t a bad thing at all. But they could have expressed more love for the B-movie side of the film and the exposition/backstory dumps during this moss-covered journey to the jungle. That’s the main reason this film doesn’t work entirely.
In the end, the film never amounts to the ridiculous potential of its title. An array of possibilities could have transpired – lengthy chase sequences, various animal attacks (such as snakes, bugs, lizards), and some other encounters – which would have enabled the character to avoid sitting around the quicksand for over forty minutes. I felt the director could have escalated things a bit more, crafting more tense set pieces and adding more value to a project like this. And while I found myself enjoying a great chunk of Quicksand for its suspenseful jungle survival horror moments, a part of me still felt unsatisfied once the credits arrived. Putting all those issues aside, I still love that Shudder is giving these types of films a spotlight for horror fans to seek out.
Quicksand will be available to watch on Shudder from July 14, 2023.