Sloggy Horror Quicksand Simply Sucks

Movies Reviews Shudder
Sloggy Horror Quicksand Simply Sucks

Cue another well-earned wordplay burial for Andrés Beltrán’s Quicksand, a stupendously flat survival thriller about extreme couples therapy. The more you try to wriggle free of the film’s ensuing dullness, the more you become tangled in a script that haphazardly melds subgenres. Intensity is sucked beneath, drowning under a dense slop of hamfisted emotional character beats that drag stakes to a muddy, mucky grave. Quicksand ranks unfavorably against far more expressive and diabolical single-location entrapments, from Buried to 4×4, Fall to 12 Feet Deep, wasting opportunities to glorify every Saturday morning cartoon’s favorite way to catch heroes and villains alike.

Sofia (Carolina Gaitàn) and Josh (Allan Hawco) have nearly finalized their divorce, separated only a few months prior, but decide a joint medical conference getaway in Colombia sounds peachy. Even better, Sofia agrees to accompany Josh on a jungle hike instead of preparing seminar presentations—despite their non-stop bickering since arrival. The concierge at their hotel warns the travelers to stay away from a territory dubbed Las Arenas, where poisonous snakes roam and quicksand pits have appeared. Cut to Sofia and Josh sprinting through Las Arenas in a rainstorm, where the two eventually find themselves up to their shoulders in a quicksand-like stew.

Writer Matt Pitts forcibly weaves cold-blooded relationship drama into a lockbox scenario that takes place mainly in the swampy pool. In a mere twenty-eight minutes, Sofia finds herself sloshing around despite Josh’s pleas for his frantic wife to remain calm lest she fatally submerge—his reasoning for joining his wife’s potential demise. Pitts fights against the simplicity of two victims trapped in place with the hope of reuniting under dire circumstances, but never taps into the human naturality of Sofia and Josh’s limbo status. Everything between Josh’s obnoxious hero complex and sour attitude towards Sofia to his wife’s return-fire reactions lacks the authenticity and investment to justify Quicksand being more than what’s on the tin.

As for the survival horror elements, hissing serpents and surprise dead bodies aren’t successful enough to raise the film’s pulse. Santiago Otoya’s cinematography adds visual spice through sneaky-slithery snake cam (think Evil Dead but way slower) or combat knives as reflective surfaces, but other sequences—particularly the first fangs-out attack—fail to spotlight those frightful moments when the nightmares finally do come true. Quicksand puts elevated heart rates second, relying instead on grating characters to thoughtlessly endanger themselves to benefit the game of “will they, won’t they” that Pitts’ screenplay presumes is more interesting than people trapped in sludgy goop with killer reptilians abound.

Beltrán’s instincts about what makes Quicksand interesting are almost always incorrect. There are aspects that should excite me as a horror fan—surprise corpse, loaded shotgun, aggressive wildlife—yet both Beltrán’s execution and Pitt’s foundation are unexceptional. Manuel José Gordillo’s score fits the almost Hallmarky, Lifetime-with-and-edge appropriation of romantic hardships forming a diamond under immense pressure, except it’s also a mood-killer, even when transitioning back into a more generic chills-and-peril rhythm. There’s a collision of tones that’s more like a car wreck than harmonious chaos, as Beltrán drains the tension out of this waterlogged misfire about love, hate and all the venomous obstacles in between.

Quicksand swings and misses as the next buzzy nature-born thriller. Beltrán can never decide if he’s making an upscale SYFY B-movie or an overserious examination of marriages so stale that self-destruction seems the only answer. A feature dedicated to the foe that is the quickest of sands no doubt requires some narrative padding, but Pitts’ unaffecting dramatic screenplay is hardly the answer. Shudder’s latest tics none of the boxes we hope to see fulfilled, missing the mark as badly as Sofia’s inability to hit her target with a shotgun blast.

Director: Andrés Beltrán
Writer: Matt Pitts
Starring: Carolina Gaitàn, Allan Hawco
Release Date: July 14, 2023 (Shudder)

Matt Donato is a Los Angeles-based film critic currently published on SlashFilm, Fangoria, Bloody Disgusting, and anywhere else he’s allowed to spread the gospel of Demon Wind. He is also a member of the Hollywood Critics Association. Definitely don’t feed him after midnight.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin