Deep in the Colombian rainforest, an estranged couple begrudgingly makes one last hike together. Soon, though, things take a turn for the worse. Sofia and Josh (played by Carolina Gaitán and Allan Hawco, respectively) find themselves trapped in quicksand, surrounded by nothing but the vast sprawl of trees and one venomous snake. Now, despite their complicated relationship status, they must rely on each other to survive.
Quicksand has all the makings of a promising survival horror film but ultimately falls short. Couples in turmoil have often proved to be a fruitful foundation for horror – will they make it out of the haunted house, the monster movie, or their forced time together with hearts and bodies intact? There are real emotional and physical stakes here that can ground a movie in something real and worth emotionally investing in. Quicksand, however, doesn’t do enough to tether us to these characters. But that’s not to say the movie isn’t trying to say something interesting over the course of its 85-minute runtime.
Before we get to the rainforest, the quicksand, or the snake, we spend some time with the couple as they arrive in Colombia for a medical conference they’re both attending. It’s in these initial sequences where the more interesting threads the movie wants to address are introduced and then seemingly forgotten until the third act. Namely, Sofia’s desire to do more outside of her role as a mother and wife. She used to be a doctor, until her children came along, and although she loves them, she still yearns for the fulfillment of professional work that’s eluded her since becoming a mother. It’s an interesting, compelling concept that the movie only explores at the surface level. Diving deep into motivations is part of making characters relatable and because Quicksand doesn’t let us closer than arm’s length to Sofia and Josh, I found myself struggling to care about their fates.
On top of the emotional distance the film creates throughout the movie, Quicksand struggles with pacing. Although it’s a tight 85-minute movie, there are no big plot developments or significant, interesting shifts until over 30 minutes into the film. I wanted to revel in a messy ride through the Colombian rainforest that hinges on a faulty marriage, but it takes a long time to get there. Even then, it’s not really fun, or all that messy in the end.
Quicksand has an interesting concept but doesn’t deliver on its promise. So, it ends up taking something that could have been uniquely fun, unhinged, and creative and instead delivers maudlin unearned emotionality. I’m especially disappointed in the decision to not explore a Latina character’s interior emotional life and desires in a meaningful way until the very end of the film. It’s not that the performances are bad – Gaitán and Hawco are doing good work, even when they’re constrained to the limitations of a quicksand pit and the shortcomings of the script. It’s that their work deserves a better movie.
Overall, Quicksand has all the ingredients of a promising, intelligent survival horror thriller but falls short. Maybe with a stronger, more assured script, and a real desire to explore a complicated Latina’s inner life, there could have been something great here. But instead, Quicksand gets stuck in its own ambitions and shortcomings.
Quicksand is available to screen now on AMC’s Shudder platform.