Like many I suspect, my first experience of Adrian Garcia Bogliano was his raw and gritty rape revenge shocker No Morire Sola. This earlier work is a much different beast though, where that was a humourless and traditional piece harking back to classic exploitation days, 36 Pasos is an offbeat, darkly comic and even layered film, much more a modern affair. The story operates in the twisted captivity genre that has become so popular in recent years, with a group of young women held in a sunny, idyllic country home for reasons unsure. But unlike much of the genre 36 Pasos eschews elaboration, not a film of grandiosely contrived vengeful plotting nor of dubiously inventive and unlikely Rube Goldberg inspired instruments of torture. And the young ladies aren't criminals, scumbags or self condemned by bad faith. Instead the violence is blunt, simplistic and bloody, and the characters are realistic, recognisable people, albeit all decidedly attractive. They may not always be smart or likeable but they compell, and the uniformly fine, natural performances miss nary a beat. The gradual unfolding of the story into the crazed finale, short sharp bursts of violence, underswells of dark humour (albeit never mean spirited) and occasional experimental flourishes paint a rather interesting picture, the set up is essentially an abstract stand in of multiple possibilities, an account of absurd striving. Question the rules and face dire consequence, question authority or try to escape and face the same. And while the rules may seem not harsh, even curiously reasonable, they are but a happy face on cruel reality. So whether its getting ahead in business, social spheres or just the business of living in general, 36 Pasos fits.
But for all those uninterested in subtext this is a fine entertainment without looking any further. Though the budget is evidently pretty small the gore is effective with even a wince making moment or two, it also comes at a good clip while maintaining an element of surprise, from a bloody, gnarly corpse in the first five minutes or so to appearances from our good friends chainsaw, nail-gun and branding iron. A smattering of nudity adds to the exploitative charm also, without coming across as forced or silly. And the ending draws things together in satisfying, even oddly moving fashion. Now straightforward slasher or splatter fans probobly won't like this too much and I expect thorough-going art horror fans will find it too trashy, but for me this was most agreeable stuff. Well, I suppose I expected more leftfield weirdness, but what I got didn't disappoint. 8/10, highly recommended to indie horror fans.