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  Ropes Rabid Following
Year: 2019
Director: Jose Luis Montesinos
Stars: Paula del Rio, Miguel Angel Jenner, Jordi Aguilar, Ana Terrasa, Irena Terrasa, Ruben Garcia
Genre: Horror, Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Teenager Elena (Paula del Rio) has suffered a run of terrible misfortune recently. Not only did she lose her mother early, but her father (Miguel Angel Jenner) was sent into alcoholism because of the tragedy, and her gymnast sister was subsequently killed in a car crash. Making matters worse, the vehicle was being driven by Elena, who lost control, and in the impact was left more or less a paraplegic, aside from being able to slightly move her head and right arm, which helps her perambulate around in her motorised wheelchair. But her father wants to do right by his depressed daughter, who has recently attempted suicide with her medication, so takes her out to his home in the countryside which he has decked out with all mod cons. And a dog...

From that premise of the opening ten minutes, you may be anticipating a serious drama about coping with disability, but the dog, Athos, appears to be significant, and so he turns out to be as on entering the house with its special stairlift and ropes everywhere to aid Elena's ease of access, he happens to find a dead bat on the floor of one room. Except the bat is not dead, and springs into life as Athos investigates it, biting him on the face; dad stomps on it, but we can tell the damage has been done, for we have either seen or read Stephen King's Cujo, and are aware that bats carry rabies which the overeager pooch will fall victim to. In real life he would be taken away to be destroyed, but the father hits a snag before that can occur: the slight issue of a deadly heart attack.

Yes, his poor health has finally taken its toll at the worst time possible, and as he collapses in the garden, his offspring can only look on helplessly, not able to contact the outside world and with a rabid dog patrolling outside. The only companion Elena has is her polecat named Luke, but he is less interested in fetching phones for her and more interested in snuffling around the house until he too is bitten - by the dog - and becomes another liability for her wellbeing. Ropes, or Cordes as it was called in its original Spanish, was essentially a problem-solving thriller with horror overtones, akin to something like Panic Room in its high concept if not its overall effect. The plot was just that bit too contrived in that we could see its machinations, those cogs moving to keep the forward momentum, but that was not necessarily a barrier to enjoyment.

Indeed, director and co-writer Jose Luis Montesinos, graduating from an apprenticeship of years of short films, looked well aware of what to implement to keep the audience's sympathy and its attention. Elena did not begin as a particularly engaging character, yet thanks to her increasing hardships you warmed to her and wanted the satisfaction of seeing her beat the odds stacked up against her as cruel fate conspired to hamper her escape. That King influence was clear: not only was a whole narrative lifted from Cujo, but the theme of disablement under terrible circumstances was part and parcel of such tales as Misery and Gerald's Game; maybe there was an element of George A. Romero's Monkeyshines in there as well, but it would be King in non-supernatural mode you would call to mind, and no bad thing either to use his work as a template. In that vein, Elena had visions of her dead sister to represent her guilt, which she had to get over to succeed, and if the melodrama dominated, the suspense was neatly arranged to offset it. Yes, Ropes hewed to the derivative, but was decent for what it was. Music by Arnau Bataller.

[Ropes will be on Digital Download from 19th November 2020.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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