Shudder Streaming: Quicksand (2023) - Reviewed

Image courtesy of Shudder

Ask anyone who’s been in a long-term relationship and they’ll say it has its share of ups and downs. Some days it feels like walking on clouds, and other days, it might feel like drowning in a pit of quicksand. Andres’ Beltran’s Quicksand is both a very literal and figurative exploration of what it’s like in a relationship when it feels like drowning, and it’s an unusually cathartic examination of humans trying to rise above their own personal conflicts to face the terrifying forces of nature to survive.
A married couple (Carolina Gaitan and Allan Hawco) are in Colombia for a work conference and their relationship is not doing well. They’re medical professionals on the cusp of a divorce, demanding separate rooms and bickering at every opportunity. Despite their differences, they still share a love of hiking and embark on a hike through the rainforest together the day before their conference to clear their heads. Locals warned them of quicksand in that area, but they foolheartedly disregard the warnings. They soon regret this choice when they end up falling into quicksand during a frantic attempt to escape an armed man that they discover stealing their car. The situation goes from bad to worse when they notice a venomous snake and its egg near where they’re trapped, along with a corpse who died in the same quicksand they’re in. Will they find a way out of their terrifying predicament or meet the same fate as their predecessor?
Quicksand is a film that succeeds on multiple levels. It creates suspense effectively and continuously raises the stakes to keep audiences invested in the plot with excellent pacing. There are some especially intense moments in regards to their encounters with the snake that are enough to make anyone recoil a bit. The filmmaker knows how to make the Colombian rainforest a truly oppressive environment for the two main characters, and despite the vastness of this setting, it still manages to feel claustrophobic because of how well it portrays the couple’s unfortunate entrapment. The cinematography also goes a long way to make the nature around them seem grim and menacing as they desperately work to escape the quicksand before it’s too late.
As much as the film is a quintessential “man vs. nature” film, however, it’s equally a poignant “man vs. man” film, and that’s what sets it apart. While the predicament the characters face is enough to maintain interest, the extra hook is their strained marriage that goes through a number of different phases throughout the film. While they have their share of conflict, there’s still a genuine love and concern for each other that supersedes all of the anger they have, and it makes for compelling storytelling. Both Gaitan and Hawco play their parts skillfully, and it helps drive this facet of the plot home. The complexities of their relationship feel organic with such strong actors carrying the film, which is crucial since it’s essentially a two-person cast.
While Quicksand is a relatively small and simple thriller, it tackles big suspense and drama with the best of them. Just like nature has the capacity to be beautiful in many ways but utterly frightening in others, so can the relationships people have with each other, and neither is underplayed in this tense exploration of both.
—Andrea Riley