by Hope Madden
Back in 2023, Chris Kentis crafted one of the most nerve-wracking explorations in tension ever filmed. Open Water dropped you in the middle of the ocean with a married couple and, eventually, as day turns to night and their scuba boat never comes back for them, a lot of sharks.
Few survival tales have stripped away so much and still left you so frazzled. Andres Beltran follows the minimalist tourism of doom path with his Colombian hiking misadventure, Quicksand.
Although Sofia (Carolina Gaitan) and Nick (Allan Hawco) are separated and heading toward divorce, they accept friend Marcos’s invitation to speak at his medical convention. During some down time, they go for a hike, run into trouble, and flee for their lives in the wrong direction – into a part of the rainforest known for quicksand.
Here is where we spend most of the film: stuck chest deep in Colombian mud with an unhappy married couple. No one will realize they’re missing for at least a day, and even then, they’re miles away from where anyone might look for them.
The quicksand isn’t their only problem, naturally. Trapped as they are, they’re vulnerable to predators – fire ants, snakes – but they’ll still have time to hash out their own issues.
A film this limited, done well, can keep you in the moment, your head on a swivel, your mind working along with the characters’ to find a solution. Adam Green’s 2010 skiing horror Frozen succeeded, as, to a degree, did the 2010 Ryan Reynolds date with claustrophobia, Buried.
Given the extremely limited cast, action and locations, a film like this lives and dies on performances since there’s almost nothing else to look at. Hawco delivers layered, vulnerable work that surprises.
Gaitan is less convincing, partly because the performance is superficial and partly because Sofia’s internal journey feels inauthentic and manipulative.
Beltran’s direction, though competent, lacks inspiration. He never manages to mine tension, and his actors rarely feel truly stuck. Uncomfortable, sure. Dirty and wet, definitely. Trapped and panicked, nope.
The fact that the film’s blandly obvious, wildly outdated message is all we get from our efforts doesn’t do Quicksand any favors, either.