In an attempt to distract me from the current situation, I found myself browsing for interesting movies to watch. I haven’t seen a film in a while and frankly, this one sounded rather promising. The 2019 Spanish film “El Hoyo” (literally “The Hole”) has an incredibly clever premise and presents an intriguing yet gnarly plot akin to “The Cube”. After The Cube’s sequel was such a letdown in the past, I was excited about this one, although one has to say that while the comparison justified, El Hoyo isn’t The Cube. “The Platform” (that’s the English title btw) is set in a futuristic tower-like structure where residents are placed on different floors, two at a time, with a platform descending through a large floor in the middle of the building to feed the tower’s population. On the top floor, the prisoners have access to a feast of great dishes. If everyone only ate a few bits and pieces, it could last until the very bottom of this structure. It never does though.
Directed by: Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia Written by: David Desola and Pedro Rivero Genres: Social, Sci-Fi, Horror Release: September 6th, 2019 (TIFF), March 20th 2020 (Netflix) Run Time: 94 minutes Films was watched on Netflix.
The story focuses mainly on Goreng (Iván Massagué) who volunteered to enter this facility, not knowing what he was in for. On floor 48, his very first cellmate, Trimagasi (Zorion Eguileor), explains the process to him, giving him the information he needs just in time for the platform to arrive. “Level 48 is a good floor”, he says, as the platform usually carries some leftovers now. The most clever – or rather evil – part of the system, however, is that inmates change floors at the start of every month. Hence, you may eat as much as you can on floor 5 only to find yourself near the very bottom of the tower on the very next day… This is where the movie gets a bit ghastly as the second third of the film portrays a shift in Goreng’s and Trimagasi’s power dynamic once they’re relocated to the 132nd floor. What’s bound to come is potentially a bit too gruesome for some of you… I mean, I had to step away and take a break from the film for a moment to grab some water and prepare myself for what came next.
I found the movie in the first third to be incredibly interesting and as it unfolds, the social parable becomes even more clear. If the rich lived off only what they needed, the poor or the have-nots would be able to survive better. It’s pretty obvious but while the movie could stay exactly there, the writers, David Desola and Pedro Rivero, as well as the director Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia, take it even further, adding more twists and ideas to the premise. Through changes in the camera perspective, El Hoyo lets you in on these characters thoughts and feelings without them uttering any words.
You can see how power dynamics switch over time as you learn more about them but once you look down the hole, you’ll realize even better what “the people below us are below us” truly means. The second third of the plot is filled with some rather unexpected twists and intricacies. Luckily, though, the camera work has a bit of a focus on facial expressions and people’s eyes, showing us clearly how they change over time and how Goreng is robbed of his naivety and ideals as time goes on. As the story unfolds into its more action-packed final stretch, I found myself enjoying it less and less as the movie kept on holding my hand when I really wanted to think more.
That’s where El Hoyo isn’t like The Cube. In The Cube, the residents find themselves in a mysterious structure where they have to survive deadly rooms and each other to find a way out. El Hoyo unravels some of the mysteries partway through and sadly gives us unnecessary flashbacks that spoil the fun of thinking about the story. Even so, we have to bear in mind that El Hoyo is able to stand on its own. It’s a similar setting, yes, but the idea is completely different with it all being a parable on our society where we start on different locations and continue to get screwed over by a system that makes the rich richer while the poor die in some alleyway. The ideas that the film has aren’t new or revolutionary but its execution and the way these ideas are portrayed are incredibly well done.
I watched the movie on Netflix and found it incredibly interesting to watch it in Spanish with English subtitles, even if I don’t understand Spanish. I’d imagine that the dubs available are probably quite good but personally, I found the emotion and energy that these actors put into their voice so astonishing and wonderful that I couldn’t help myself and just never checked the other dubs. It’s a great watch, honestly, and I really recommend giving it a go. It gets a tad gross at times and it isn’t exactly the scariest Horror film, but it certainly is a thriller that keeps you on your toes and that gave me the chills, on top of leaving an interesting aftertaste.