ROPES (a.k.a. Cordes / Prey) *** Spain 2019 Dir: Jose Luis Montesinos. 87 mins
The feature debut for director Jose Luis Montesinos at first appears to be a hybrid of CUJO and the old fashioned thriller trope of a physically disabled, lone woman fighting for survival in her own home against an unexpected enemy.
Paula Del Rio impresses as a suicidal, paralysed teenager still harbouring overwhelming guilt for the car crash that killed her sister (also Del Rio) and in which she was the driver. Her dad (Miguel Angel Jenner), himself a recovering alcoholic with a lot to prove, has outfitted their remote country home to assist with her condition but is out of the picture when their loyal dog Athos is bitten by a bat and becomes ever more aggressive.
As per one of the film’s English language titles, much of ROPES consists of the quadriplegic Del Rio battling against the increasingly violent Belgian Shepherd with the help of anti-dog barriers, strategically placed ropes – and a loveable, heroic ferret named Luke. As with many movies of this kind, the tiny cast accommodates an entirely disposable secondary character, along with considerable inner turmoil as the heroine’s experience dovetails into her own battle to forgive herself for the family tragedy.
The dog attacks are well done – including a suspenseful sequence with a stair lift – and there are a couple of effective scares. The convincing, at times boldly unlikeable Del Rio sells the intensity of both her character and the scenario. Alas, the emotional journey toward closure and reconciliation (partly facilitated by conversations with her dead sister) feels cliched, ultimately detracting from the suspense of the straight forward high concept.
Review by Steven West