The Platform Review: Netflix’s most compelling and unnerving horror offering
The feature debut of director Galda Gaztelu-Urrutia, The Platform, is one of Netflix’s newest horror offerings and one that makes viewers question what they would do to survive.
The film follows Goreng (Ivan Massague), a man who enters a vertical prison known as The Pit in order to gain an accredited diploma. The Pit is a seemingly endless prison with each level containing two prisoners that are switched between levels every month. Every day there is a platform that slowly goes down to each level with a smorgasbord of food for the prisoners to each. While prisoners on higher levels have the chance to eat whatever they can get their hands on, anyone on the lowest level can barely get any crumbs and run the risk of starving to death. Seeing how this system causes people to horrifically die and go to extreme lengths to survive, Goreng must figure out how to end this cruelty before he succumbs to this lifestyle.
Through the simple and patient storytelling from Gaztelu-Urrutia and writers David Desola and Pedro Rivero and rustic and dystopian set design, it’s hard not to find yourself instantly sucked into and invested into the world of The Pit. The opening conversation between Goreng and his initial cellmate Trimagasi (Zorion Eguileor) is great as it dishes out some of the details about The Pit and delves into the mentality that’s developed from being there. There’s this interesting class level of respect that makes it easy to understand how this process has existed for so long and how everyone has bought into it. It’s the kind of world-building that’s rarely seen, but ultimately incredibly effective in unleashing the kind of horrors that feel all too real to shy away from.
Every time Goreng and his cellmates end up switching which cell they’re living in, there’s this pit in your stomach that comes from worrying what they’re fate will be. It’s sort of like in other horror movies where generally bad things happen at night, but here every grotesque physical and psychological horror happens when the film explores life in the lower levels. The second Goreng wakes up in a lower level there’s this immediate sense of dread that washes over viewers because the image of the lack of food is legitimately chill inducing. It’s a thrill ride that constantly leaves you starving for hope that Goreng won’t suffer a horrifying fate and makes every interaction he has very meaningful.
Every character that Goreng finds himself with adds something new the experience of being in The Pit and offers more insights that make Goreng question what his endgame will be. The way the film uses small details, like the one item they’re allowed to bring and certain character motivations, to build more of a connection and understanding to them. The entire sequence of Trimagasi explaining his item is very intriguing, especially when it takes a grim turn, and the motivation of a strange prisoner named Miharu (Alexandra Masangkay) makes every appearance of hers immediately tense with uncertainty. Not to mention, all of performances are sheer perfection in making the world feel real and bringing out how dire and desperate these characters really are.
Massague acts as this perfect middle-ground character that viewers are learning alongside of and it makes all of his experiences much more engaging. He makes all of the hardships that Goreng faces, from homicidal cellmates to taking a stand against the system, very emotional and seeing him slowly lose his mind in this environment comes off very believable. Really all of the interactions he has feel real and his slow-building arc in choosing how end things is one of the most satisfying and genuine emotional arcs I’ve seen recently. The supporting cast is just as great as they bring out each of their character’s unique mindsets and play both a physical and mental threat to Goreng as he decides what to do.
What really makes The Platform such an effective psychological thriller is in the themes it presents about survival that are actually quite timely. It offers up the idea about how people become more self-minded in deadly situations rather than come together to overcome a major issue. This theme is actually really interesting and played out well in Massague’s great performance and with a friendship he grows with another cellmate named Baharat (Emilio Buale). The entire last sequence of the two attempting to change things is very powerful and it’s an experience that’s very cathartic. Not to mention, in a time where people are hoarding many household items and people in need can’t get essential items, I can’t think of a more relevant film that could make people rethink their actions.
The Platform is easily one of Netflix’s best horror offerings as it taps into some horrifying survival fears and builds a world that makes viewers feel as trapped and desperate as its characters. Frankly, it might even be one of my favorite films thus far of this year and on Netflix as its oddly relevant and displays a message that most people should hear.