Reviews – 26/4/2007
“Gorehounds, asshounds: Run, don't walk, to this budget-conscious and kooky but surprisingly effective slasher flick from the director of Habitaciones Para Turistas (Rooms for Tourists), an Argentine favorite from 2005's festival. Bogliano layers familiar horror motifs with a critique of women's oppression, albeit one accompanied by gynecologically intimate low angles of half-wedgied bikini bottoms and all manner of graphic violence: strobe-lit torture montages, branding, and a choreographed dance sequence. Bogliano's girls frolic in the garden hose in winking slo-mo sequences, but soon enough we see that in their poolside vacation house they are kept captive like Troma babes in a pervy zoo exhibit. The rules – silence, obedience, and happiness – are enforced by a club-wielding, 300-pound man-boy who chops off fingers. Having thus inculpated the voyeuristic, sadistic, and presumably male gaze of his audience, Bogliano cranks up the camp, speeding toward a splatter finale competently stylized after the pulpy mayhem of giallo and "killer party" slashers like My Bloody Valentine. Let's not call it feminist, but there is something recognizably anti-patriarchal and satirical in the way the women are trained to a whistle and forced to smile and act nice, then pitted against one another for survival.” – Marrit Ingman – “Austin Chronicle”
“We have to admit, we went into 36 Steps (36 Pasos), the newest film by Argentinean gore-extraordinaire Adrián García Bogliano, completely unaware of the director’s body of work with no better excuse than we are lazy. What we stumbled upon in our ignorance-is-bliss state was a misogynistic fable-come-blood-bath following the tenets of a 1950’s housewife: do not talk, stay within your defined boundaries, keep everything in order and appear to be happy at all cost. For a modern girl, those are tough pills to swallow, especially when your only available beverage is a packet of Heinz and the last image you saw was a severed finger. But as is the case with most horror-slasher flicks, there is always a lesson to be learned. 36 Steps is the story of six girls who are invited to a remote hacienda for an old classmate’s birthday party, a classmate who, admittedly, the girls didn’t much care for. We are of course using the term “invited” loosely; basically they were hunted down, rendered unconscious and abducted by a mouth-breathing man child whose appearance in each scene is accompanied by a malevolent fog horn. They are subsequently chained with what appears to be some sort of Spanish inquisition era restraining device and tortured into submission: first you learn silence (Silencio!), then obedience (Obediencia!), and finally happiness (Felicidad!).
From there, the movie follows a horror pastiche not unlike the work of Takashi Miike: Naked dismembered women? Check. Carnival-like animation sequence? Check. Synchronized group dance followed by bludgeoning? Double check. This is a true gore-core fanatic’s wet dream! For some reason, the girls never change out of their bikinis and their standard operating procedure is to have splash fights in the pool. There are very specific rules, however: if they speak about anything unpleasant, they are disciplined in heinous ways (think branding iron) and they are absolutely not to attempt an escape. In the end they are pitted against each other in a battle of survival, and only one will remain standing. But will any of them take the 36 Steps to freedom?
To be sure, the film is super low budget (every member of the production company plays a character in the movie) but it is masterfully crafted. The story is simple, yet unique, the visuals are viscerally engaging (aka vomitous, but in a good way), and the acting is surprisingly good. Bogliano has a great talent for turning inherently sexist ideas into a platform for women’s rights. Through the film he asserts that women should not be trained to answer to a whistle like dogs and that closing their mouths does not correlate to closing their minds. Trying to control them only turns them into chainsaw-wielding psychopaths. And, perhaps Bogliano thinks women should be a little bit nicer to one another.
We don’t purport to have our bachelors in butchery or our master’s in mayhem, but as far as this class is concerned, watching 36 Steps was the most stomach-churning fun that we had all week. We highly recommend that you go to the Alamo, order a burger and bask in the electric glow of brilliant Argentinean cinema. Just be sure to tell your server to hold the ketchup.”
"We can makes comparisons to art-cinema, but this film is schlockier than any other horror film. In particular, 36 Steps' micro-budget ($5,000!) and gory satire recall Troman horror-comedies.
No telling when we'll see this one, but hopefully soon. Bogliano's first film, Habitaciones para turistas [Rooms for Tourists], participate of the last Sitges festival, and is available on DVD through Strand Releasing. Its success has already insured pre-production on a remake.
Looks like Bogliano's poised to be the hottest Argentinian since Isabel Sarli.”