Hoarding, sharing, rationing, gluttony, and starvation are unfortunately relevant themes, nowadays more than ever, and with eerie timing the new Netflix original movie The Platform arrives. The Spanish language sci-fi horror thriller, originally titled The Hole, seems like a particularly gory riff on the Canadian sci-fi horror classic Cube. This goes to some dark places and doesn’t really let up, sometimes wallowing in splatter, gloomy atmosphere and nihilism. Still, it is an interesting puzzle box thriller with a mousetrap central premise about people trying to survive. It may not be a nice experience, but it is compellingly twisted.
In a stark concrete prison, Goreng (Ivan Massague), wakes up with a chatty somewhat insane cellmate, Trimagasi (Zorion Eguileor), the number 48 painted on the wall, and a giant hole in the middle of the room. Above and below are more rooms and every day a platform filled with the remnants and half eaten leftovers descends. Trimagasi says that at the top the platform is full of food and then it keeps going down every level for an unknown length of time. The trick is when the platform stops, people eat and leave behind what is left, otherwise the cell with either freeze or burn if someone tries to hoard anything. Naturally, this is an insane situation and every month, the prisoners change levels, either closer to the top with plenty or at the bottom where starvation and insanity awaits. That’s only the first bit of bad news, also every once in awhile a crazed woman, Miharu (Alexandra Masangkay), descends with the platform. While times are decent on level 48 things get worse when they wake up almost a hundred levels below.
The Platform may be a blunt metaphorical piece, but it presents an interesting moral conundrum; if the people at the top of the tower take all the food for themselves there’s nothing left for people at the bottom. It doesn’t exactly follow through with the thought, often getting sidetracked with gory asides. The notion of cannibalism pops up early and it only takes about 30 minutes into the flick to get to that. Trimagasi is logically dispassionate about survival as he continually torments Goreng with his rambling.
The central premise, two guys locked in a room and jaw about survival, seems like it could make an awesome short film but hard to stretch out at an hour and a half. Therefore, the movie sort of becomes a different short film about every half hour as Goreng rotates through a cast of wacky cellmates like a twisted sitcom, each person sort of representing a different aspect of survival. There’s Imoguiri (Antonia San Juan) who believes if she asks people to ration their amounts of food there will be enough for everyone to survive and Goreng manages to implement that temporarily in a very crass way. Another cellmate is Baharat (Emilio Buale) and he gets in some darkly funny moments when he tries to climb to an upper level and fails miserably. Him and Goreng are at the centre of the movie’s climatic scene when they ride the platform down with intense confrontations along the way. The mystery of the crazed woman never really gets a proper answer although it does add a wild card element to whenever she shows up. The ending tip toes between ambiguous, which can be a solid horror movie ending, and frustratingly unanswered. The few glimpses of the food being prepared on level zero is fascinating as an army of culinary geniuses make an elaborately prepared feast which is completely devoured and destroyed when it reaches below.
There are some rather ham-fisted Christ analogies as people often call Goreng a messiah as he wants to try to save everyone in a fit of potential self sacrifice, and he’s shown to have volunteered for the program in exchange for a degree and he looks kind of Jesus-y. Like a lot of the film, the metaphor doesn’t exactly land perfectly but it’s good enough. Massague is a good actor, going from highly idealistic to completely crazed over the course of the film.
On Netflix, the movie defaults to the English language dubbed version however watching it in it’s original Spanish with subtitles works better. The dubbing actors are okay, but their voice over doesn’t have the naturalistic sound like the original audio does, and the lip synch is downright awful and robs moments of emotional power. English dubbing can work in animation but on live action it perpetually looks weird. Also, the dubbing loses some of the drama and is kind of inaccurate, like in the original Spanish language and subtitles Goreng says that him and a cellmate are “Two lunatics on fire” which is darkly poetic, however the English dub has him say they’re “Two lunatics going for it, bro.” which is just awkward.
The Platform gets deep into intense gore and darkness which doesn’t make it the happiest movie to view considering it’s inherently about dwindling resources and how people can descend into madness in times of hardship. But it is a clever and fascinating watch that has a great central hook that is pushed to the extreme. The Platform is not fun but is unique.
Director: Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia
Starring: Ivan Massagué, Zorion Eguileor, Antonia San Juan