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‘Quicksand’ Review: Shudder’s tepid thriller is dragged down by dead weight

The movie struggles to make the most of its economic runtime, but is good for one or two delectably disgusting moments.
Credit: Shudder

TEXAS, USA — The tepid “Quicksand” may be dropping on the horror-centric streaming platform Shudder this week, but given the tonal mismatch of heavily sincere story and B-movie-ready premise, you can just as easily watch it as one of the year’s thorniest rom-coms. And maybe you should. 

Good for a couple delectably disgusting moments but lacking the ingenuity needed to elevate its premise’s barenakedness, “Quicksand” could call itself a one-location thriller if it wasn’t so overly cautious. The movie – directed by Andres Beltran and written by Matt Pitts – labors through a third of its 85-minute runtime to establish about its married protagonists what we notice right away: Their union is on the rocks, and neither is feeling very up to saving it. Instead, Sofia (Carolina Gaitan) and Josh (Allan Hawco) grit their teeth during a work trip to Colombia, quietly frustrated when they don’t get the separate rooms they requested and just barely hiding their shared contempt when dining with a friend. It’s pretty familiar stuff, and from early on we’re left biding our time for the movie to hit the gas pedal. 

It eventually does, even if it doesn’t exactly floor it with some promising but frustratingly short-lived sequences involving companions of the slithering and creepy-crawly variety. Ironically enough, it helps “Quicksand” (and the adaptable audience member) that Gaitan and Hawco don’t have much chemistry; the fact we can scarcely imagine a shared history between them might as well reflect the fact their characters would rather not remember it for themselves.

And so when this bickering husband-and-wife duo finds itself stuck in what looks like the world’s thickest witch’s brew in a forest an actual witch might call home, it’s a bit easier to buy into the nightmare scenario of being stuck literally facing the person you hate the most—and who you might very well die with. And it’s much easier if you look past the metaphorical obviousness of it all – rigidity in relationships, literal immovability... Pitts’ script isn't all that stimulating – to locate the gallows humor when Sofia puts a knife to Josh’s throat, insisting it’s for his own good. 

Life is cruel. In movies, it can be crueler. At least here, the cruelty tastes better served with a side of laughs. There’s a gleefully wicked version of “Quicksand” somewhere behind the precious minutes wasted from trying to break our hearts through Sofia and Josh’s anguished cries, but credit where credit’s due: There are a few moments of self-knowing transcendence when these actors realize how they could better serve a movie that’s enticing as cosmic dramedy but increasingly rote as environment horror. One alluring shot (the cinematographer is Santiago Otoya) finds the camera observing from an inverted perch, as if Sofia and Josh were sinking upward instead of down. That’s just about all you need to know about “Quicksand,” an outing that occasionally stumbles into a more promising version of itself. 

"Quicksand" is available to stream on Shudder Friday. Runtime: 1 hour, 26 minutes. Not rated. 

Starring Allan Hawco, Carolina Gaitan, Sebastian Eslava

Directed by Andres Beltran, written by Matt Pitts




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