Reviewed by: Jamey Hughton
Adrián García Bogliano
What's it about
A group of young women are abducted and put into a home they can’t leave, with a set of rules they must follow. If they even consider breaking these rules, a large, scary man in an ear-flapped toque shows up wielding a blunt object as a weapon. The girls must also prepare a birthday party as part of the conditions, but they don’t know why. And the best rule: they have to wear bikinis at all times.
Is it good movie?
36 PASOS (or 36 STEPS) is bizarre, ambitious, sometimes clever and often frustrating. It’s a real mess, to be sure, but there is clearly some talent behind the camera of this ultra-thrifty and highly stylized oddity from Argentina.
Director Adrian Garcia Bogliano has us hooked from the beginning, and asking ourselves the age-old question, “What the hell is going on?” As the preparations for the mysterious birthday party get underway, we see (through flashback) how each girl came to be abducted and thrown into this unusual scenario. As grimy as 36 PASOS might appear, Bogliano does seem to be a clever guy and his vision comes across loud and clear on the screen. For better, and for worse.
A failure in the film, from my perspective at least, is the lack of any notable tension at the mysterious bikini party. The girls have been forced to obey, of course, but still no one seems very edgy or panicked that they are in a truly dangerous situation. Now, we are told that they have become comfortable in their new environment through accepting and learning the rules – first silence, then obedience, and finally happiness. However, I never believed that this “conditioning” would be 100% effective and the girls would embrace their captivity. There is little to say about the cast, except that some are competent actresses and most look pretty good in their bathing wear. The subtitles can be hard to keep pace with, because there is a ton of Spanish dialogue that comes very fast. It is a challenge to keep a handle on who’s who; a check list of bikini color may be the best bet.
36 PASOS has an interesting build-up but ends up running in circles with nothing too noteworthy to say. Still, the film is thoroughly weird and kind of appealing that way. There are some strange stylistic montages, an animated segment, and a handful of nice technical touches. The editing is crisp and fast, and there are a few completely random jolts courtesy the large scary dude in the toque that are quite effective. The makeup and gore is above average, as well. Unfortunately, the film got more tedious for me as it went along. It ends in splattery fashion, and the attempt at social commentary becomes a bit monotonous, just like everything else.
Video / Audio
Although far from a total success, 36 PASOS is a fairly original horror film that is ambitious, weird and interesting. It's got some surprises, a bunch of foreign girls in bikinis, and a little bit of style.