José Luis Montesinos presents a claustrophobic and panic-filled feature debut in Ropes (or Prey) with Paula del Río giving a tremendous performance. Ropes is a brilliantly executed film.
After a car accident kills her sister and severely injures her, Elena (Paula del Río), is a grieving young quadriplegic. Who wants to end her life as she is unable to continue living in her new normal. Her father to a country house to be Miguel (Miguel Ángel Jenner) has begun to adapt his countryside home to make it as comfortable as possible for Elena. But it is not quite finished yet in time for her arrival. There she has the help of Athos, a brilliant and experienced Belgian Shepherd service dog. The animal who is supposed to be her best friend has contracted a strange disease from a bat. Turning him into her worst enemy.
While Ropes is a horror about surviving a home invasion from a dog, at its core, it is about grief and the fight that it takes to overcome it. Elena is given insurmountable odd throughout the film and she has to fight her way through all of those difficulties to survive for her family. She is haunted in dreams and hallucinations by her dead sister, who taunts her condition, and circumstances in the early stages of the film. Slowly these taunts turn to encouragement and motivational discussions. Elena cannot forgive herself for the accident and takes all of the responsibility. She believes she should not be alive and that her more talented sister should be. It is heartbreaking to see the grief and sense of loss that Elena has and the struggle to accept what has happened to her.
She also has to fight over the feeling of being a burden to her father. He has gone at great lengths to try and fix his home for her so that she can be comfortable, he loves her and will do anything and everything to make her happy. Yet she argues with him that he would prefer if Vera had lived and had been fine, this leads to a tragic scene, later on, leaving Elena another level of guilt to overcome. Add in Elena’s challenges with being in her wheelchair and effectively trapped due to physical circumstances, she has to be resourceful.
That concept is enough to fill a film before we even get into what happens with Athos and it would be compelling on its own. Writer/Director José Luis Montesinos has a few more spanners to throw into Elenas live, however. Effectively trapped within the home due to her quadriplegic state. She cannot help her father and with Athos turning more rabid as the hours go by, she is helpless. She has to learn to overcome her mental and emotional battles while also fighting death. It’s this fight and determination that is within Elena that helps her to try and overcome her situation over her once a loyal dog. To live on for her father and sister, she must get out of this situation and use everything she has to do so.
Ropes waste no time in getting the audience to the heart of the situation. Poor Athos is bitten early on by the bat and is kept outside as a result. It is telling that in other films of this ilk you have limited feelings towards the animal. Here, while we want Elena to remain safe, we pity Athos, we see how brilliant an animal that he is. Trained to help look after almost all of Elena’s needs in the house. For him to turn into an unrecognisable monster and want to kill the owner he loves breaks you. This isn’t Athos and Elena knows it, but there is nothing she can do to protect herself from him and really Athos from himself.
Del Río plays Elena perfectly in Ropes, she is still recovering from the post-traumatic stress of the actual accident. Having to now deal with being wheelchair-bound for the rest of her life. She easily balances all of the emotions needed in her character. Elena is angry, guilt-ridden and depressed . Then Del Río has to switch that and the preconceptions of her character to petrified and determined by the end of the film. She is also not afraid of the physicality of the role and shines tremendously here. She is such a well-written character that Del Río must have been rubbing her hands with glee in playing her.
Writers Yako Blesa and José Luis Montesinos have given us a very tight and moving script. As mentioned, a lot of what works in Ropes is in the fact that Athos arc isn’t entirely necessary. These characters and the plot could so easily work as a great drama/thriller of someone trying to forgive herself. To try and move on from traumatic events to live the life she deep down knows her friends and family would want her to. However, with the inclusion of Athos suffering from an apparent rabies bite. An added dimension has been presented to the story which works very well. There is not a case of urgency to the film as we know he is going to get into that house and it is simply a matter of when he does for Elena.
By giving Elena a full arc we are not just lumbered with a standard film. In the beginning, she is a tad unlikeable as she complains to her father and berates him. As her character evolves we see the guard come down. Her resentfulness fades away to desperation as the realisation comes upon her. With the reveal of how the accident still effects Elena drives the audience to root for her and to hope for her survival.
Of course, Espinosa (Athos) needs to be mentioned here for how great an acting dog he is. With the help of CGI we can see this diseased dog turn on his owners and as already said. His performance allows the audience to also feel for him. It cannot be said enough how impressive he and ferret Luke (played by Lily) are here.
Ropes will surprise many audiences with how well it works and also how emotional effective the film is. The final act when Vera appears and reads a letter to Elena will pull at your heart. Ropes is such a well-rounded tense horror which needs to be seen.
Ropes will be on Digital Download from 19th November
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