Ropes Movie Review

Written by Joel Harley

Released by Reel Suspects


Directed by José Luis Montesinos
Written by Yako Blesa and José Luis Montesinos
Grimmfest UK Premiere on 9th October 2020

Paula del Río as Elena/Vera
Jordi Aguilar as Salva
Miguel Ángel Jenner as Miguel
Espiona el Perro as Athos


Strapped into a mechanized wheelchair as a result of the car accident that killed her sister, teenage Elena is dragged off to her father’s country house where the old man hopes to bond with his daughter. Also along for the ride are Elena’s pet rodent and her dad’s dog, Athos. Trained to assist quadriplegic Elena, Athos is capable of opening almost every door in the house – thanks to little ropes Dad has left hanging off all of the door handles.

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Man’s best friend turns into Elena’s worst enemy when Athos gets into a fight with a bat in the basement, contracting a nasty case of rabies. Unfortunately, this coincides with Dad’s heart attack, leaving Elena alone in a deserted country house with only a vicious, rabid dog for company. There’s the cute rodent too, but that thing is marked as dog chow from the start. This is Cujo by way of Gerald’s Game. And, like both of those stories, this spells nothing but misery and trauma for its unfortunate heroine.

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This, the feature debut from director José Luis Montesinos, does not make for easy viewing. Animal lovers beware: no holds are barred in the fight between terrified teenager and bloodthirsty hound. Those with a wariness of big dogs will struggle with the almost unbearably tense action sequences, putting themselves in the shoes (or chair) of the film’s protagonist. This is no schlocky but entertaining Curse of Chucky-esque battle for survival – it’s gritty, uncomfortable and deeply frustrating at times. The dog’s habit of coming back, time after time, like a canine Michael Myers stretches belief, but sits just on the right side of believable. Espiona el Perro turns in a truly chilling performance as Athos – the scariest horror movie dog since Cujo himself. What a good boy.

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That the film’s title bears resemblance to a Hitchcock classic is entirely apt; Ropes is a taut, unyielding thriller which heaps abuse after abuse upon its young heroine. Paula del Río does great work as Elena, but this too is hard to watch – a screamy, snotty performance which oozes palpable terror. Montesinos and cinematographer Marc Zumbach never let up either; keeping their camera on del Río for the entire runtime.

There’s little new to Ropes' story; rather a refinement of old horror movie tropes and ideas. Montesinos and co-writer Yako Blesa have taken this killer dog story and crafted it into a bleak, gritty thriller that’s about grief, loss and a deep sense of guilt. Turns out you can teach an old dog new tricks.


Movie: 4 Star Rating Cover

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Joel Harley
Staff Reviewer
Haribo fiend, Nicolas Cage scholar and frequently functioning alcoholic. These are just some of the words which can be used to describe Joel Harley. The rest, he uses to write film criticism for Horror DNA and a variety of websites and magazines. Sometimes he manages to do so without swearing.
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