‘Below Zero’ full of claustrophobic thrills, falls short on general story

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Rodrigo Hernandez

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Rodrigo Hernandez, Arts and Entertainment Editor

‘Below Zero’ (Bajocero) is a chillingly-good Netflix Spanish original that presents an interesting premise with excellent cinematography and first-rate performances from the whole cast.

The film also contains a story with enough plot holes in it that it looks like it was attacked by an eclipse of moths.

The second film from director/co-writer Lluís Quílez takes place in the freezing cold, with a prison transport van being attacked by an outside threat. As one of the officers who were in the van gets injured from the unknown assailant, the other officer, Martín, struggles to maintain power with the prisoners inside the van, while the outside threats of the mysterious foe and the temperature loom overhead.

With a running time of one hour and 46 minutes, the film manages to execute a high-paced, suspenseful thriller that will entertain on any Friday night. The cast emits performances that are piercing and intense, and yet they also keep an undercurrent of dark humor throughout.

The film’s limited budget does not take away from the production, but in fact highlights the tense, claustrophobic atmosphere. The tight cinematography and fluorescent lighting only complement the suspenseful setting, with a sound design that is sure to keep the viewers on the edge of their seats.

As much as the film has going for it visually, the story falls flat with gaping plot holes which makes the audience constantly question scenes and decisions. These plot holes always seem to draw out the viewer and shatter the illusion of disbelief. Especially when the setting takes place in the real world, the viewer shouldn’t be asking questions that make the story fall apart.

While other films with fantasy elements may brush story issues under the carpet with convenient plot devices, the only excuse for it, in this case, is writing that wasn’t as thought out afterward.

I imagine the pitch for the movie went something like “That’s a great original idea that doesn’t rely on any past properties! Let’s get it into production immediately!”

This film is best watched in the original language, with subtitles, since the dubbed version changes a lot of the script’s subtle humor. It takes the viewer out of the movie even more.

With the drought of new entertainment currently available, this Netflix original is sure to scratch that itch for contemporary content, even if the story is sold short. 

I give it a 7/10.