Impressions: The Platform

The Platform (The Hole) is a 2019 Spanish sci-fi horror movie. It was recently, and with a bit of unfortunate timing, added to Netflix for American audiences. The movie is set in a large tower with two prisoners, or people, on each level and a large hole in the middle of their cell. The people stay on their assigned floor for a month and periodically, a platform that starts filled with food descends, stopping at each level for a short period and then moving on. You cannot keep food from the platform, only eat as it arrives. The flaw in the system is obvious, the upper levels gorge themselves leaving little to no food for the lower levels.

We follow Goreng as he is randomly assigned different rooms and slowly works out that the promise of this system to those outside it does not align at all with the experience of being in it. Nobody knows for certain how many floors are in the towers. There is little effort by those experiencing it to unite and ensure that everyone gets fed, and things that aren’t meant to be possible are happening (vague to avoid spoilers).

For me, one of the most difficult parts of the movie is the overall disjointed nature of it. With each floor change, there seems to be a shift in tone and the way the story unfolds. Some floors are more an introspective look at the general concept of both starvation and boredom. Others are more nightmarish breakdowns of the true horror of the system, and some are flat out crazy sci-fi concept pieces. All of it works together to tell the larger story, but the jarring feel of the movie was a bit of a stumbling block to me. There is little to connect the various shifts in tone and storytelling, just the overall nightmare of the place.

This choice feels pretty intentional to me, and I think it would work well for some members of the audience. Foreign horror films often experiment in ways that we, as American audiences, aren’t used to. This movie embraces not only the story it wants to tell but the way it wants to tell it, for better or for worse. It left me a little disconnected from the larger experience, though.

Aside from the story, both highs and lows, the movie is well-acted and makes great use of the setting itself. The movie is devoid of pretty much everything, but it leans into that bleakness allowing the setting to be another piece in the overall puzzle of the movie. We only really get a shift in anything through the food, of which there is not a lot, and the performances.

The movie also features a fantastic score, which is effective in keeping the audience anxious even in the long passages of time. This movie does feature a lot of long quiet moments, as they are on each floor for a month, you have to show that drawn-out feeling, but it doesn’t want the audience to settle, so you don’t.

It is also a horrific experience, which you know horror, it’s what you want. I will fully admit that cannibalism is a touchy thing with me and the horror genre. I can handle it to varying degrees, but it always hits me at least a little bit. The Platform very effectively uses the fear of lack of food and push into the taboo of cannibalism well. This is not an easy movie to watch. I’d imagine even for those that aren’t instantly bothered by the concept like me. It can be incredibly uncomfortable to watch, and the looming fear that no matter how “good” of a level Goreng is transferred to, we will eventually be back in a desperate place with him is overwhelming. For all of the other ways I consider this movie a success as far as just pure horror is concerned, it really knocks it out of the park. There is a lack of suspense or “jump scares,” but there is fear and anxiety and a lot of it.

The problem is, as I said, I just could not get into it. I was left with the feeling of “I have to watch this again,” but something about it did not click for me. I even debated putting off this Impressions until I did, but ultimately decided against it because it will probably be a while before I am willing. My failure to get into it is not a value judgment, however. While I felt the movie was a bit disjointed at times and the story had some hiccups in the way it developed, overall, it’s a good movie. Well acted, compelling score, interesting premise, and enough of that oddness that so many foreign horror movies seem to have. It is a good movie. A good movie that, for whatever reason, simply wasn’t for me (at least not at the time).

So bottom line. I would recommend this movie with some major caveats. The first is time-sensitive, can you handle this film right now? Movies about a lack of access to food are anxiety-inducing during the best of times, and we aren’t currently in the best of times. I think deciding to keep this movie on the “to watch list” for a couple of months is reasonable. Beyond that, however, if you like more concept-driven “artsy” horror, I would say this is for you. It’s not for fans of the typical slasher, and certainly isn’t going to be the horror movie that non-horror fans love. However, within its wheelhouse, which I think we’ve seen is broader than we often give it credit for, this should please a lot of viewers. For me, it remains a movie I appreciate as a fan of the genre but hope to enjoy more personally someday.

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