The Platform (4 stars)

The Platform

This gory and grimly satirical Spanish sci-fi horror makes for a surprisingly enjoyable ride

'Eat or be eaten' is the crux of this deliciously entertaining sci-fi horror. Set in a high-tech prison, or 'vertical self-management centre', it's a film that functions as a furious attack on societal self-interest. Winner of the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival's People's Choice Award for Midnight Madness, The Platform is the debut of Spanish director Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia and, while it draws from a range of easily identifiable cinematic forefathers, it's made with a searing sense of personal identity and purpose.

Set up like the cruellest of social experiments, this multi-tiered prison stacks its captives two per cell, with the entire population fed from a platform of immaculately prepared food, which descends from top to bottom without being replenished. The provisions should be enough to feed everyone, but are usually scoffed long before those on the lower levels have a chance to partake. Each pair reside for 30 days on a selected level, before being shifted; next time they could be first, or one hundredth in line. Ivan Massagué plays bookish volunteer-inmate Goreng, initially paired with Zorion Eguileor's grotesque Trimagasi, who reluctantly schools him in the ways of the place they call 'The Hole', but keeps a self-sharpening blade stashed under his pillow…

Although the Spanish have plenty of form with genre breakout hits (The Orphanage, Rec, Timecrimes), The Platform takes inspiration from all over: the pared-down, claustrophobic and smartly utilised set recalls cult Canadian horror Cube and Bong Joon-ho's masterful Snowpiercer; there's more than a smattering of the sadism of films like Saw; and it all gets a little bit The Raid-esque in its nail-biting, punchy and propulsive denouement. But, in the end, its nightmarish manifestation of the class system feels like a notable concept in its own right; and, if it's deeply cynical about humanity as a whole, there's heroism at its heart.

Available to watch now on Netflix.