More people need to watch Netflix’s most disturbing sci-fi movie

You should watch Platform, a 2019 Spanish sci-fi horror film Netflix. I watched it and it is excellent. I will add though that I won’t be watching it again. Always.

It’s one of the most disturbing movies I’ve seen in my entire life. After watching it, I thought about the film and its complex meaning for days. The Platform is so horrible and so irritating that I’m content to let its memory fade in my mind. I’m glad it’s there, but I don’t need to sit down and watch it again. Here’s why.

The Platform takes place in a futuristic prison — a vertical tower, with an open hole in the middle of each cell. A platform stacked with food descends through the cells to feed the prisoners. That is the genius and horror of this film.

The platform starts loaded with delicacies of all types created by the chef. But it stops only briefly on each floor of the cell, where the two prisoners on that level have very limited time to devour what they can. And they can’t just shovel the food into their cell to eat later because they’ll be killed if they try to hoard anything.

So the prisoners on the upper level get untouched food, and as the platform descends, it turns into a mess of half-chewed scraps and garbage. The top level prisoners don’t care about the rest of the food once he leaves them, so they don’t bother to keep The Platform sanitary, if you know what I mean and I think you do.

Prisoners are randomly assigned to a different level in the prison and their level changes every month. If you are near the top, you have a good chance of getting some fairly unmutilated breed. If you’re on the bottom, you’re basically eating spit-up, blackened scraps — if there’s anything edible left.

The metaphor of The Platform is obvious.

“There are three kinds of people,” one character points out. “Those who are at the top, those who are below and those who fall.”

Some people, often by sheer luck or fortune, end up at the top of the heap, eating the best delicacies and living a fairly easy life. I think of those silver spoon babies who are said to be “born on third base and think they’ve tripled.”

Others reach the bottom of society and, unless they win the lottery, are likely to die before moving up. They will also often do almost anything to get ahead.

And there is another group — those who begin to do well, eat well, place themselves at a high level where food is plentiful and uncontaminated. But then they fall to a lower level, where the cakes and steaks they once enjoyed are only dreams. (Some, of course, move higher. But at The Platform, if you’re not at the very, very top, you pretty much are.)


Every day is a fight for survival on The Platform.


It may sound simplistic. You should take the opportunities to pull yourself up, train yourself, eat better. Yes, at The Platform, none of that is true. You were born — or placed — where you are. A random draw determines whether you go up or down and how far in either direction. It’s not fair, but when you’re at the top, you get what you want without thinking about those who do worse.

As one character points out, if everyone in the prison only ate what they needed from the Platform, he would come down with enough food to feed everyone. But greed and fear and the gnawing memory of hunger mean that this is unlikely to happen.

You might think this is enough of a plot on its own. But The Platform is full of endless surprises, most of which I won’t give away. Here are just a few, and they’re not real spoilers because they take weird twists that you can’t even imagine reading here:

  • There’s a bloodied woman walking down the platform, looking for her daughter, realizing that each level she descends contains two prisoners who are as likely to try to kill her as not.
  • Each prisoner is allowed to bring one item into the prison with them, and some of these items are strange. (The protagonist chooses a copy of Don Quixote.) Like Chekov’s gun, they are never insignificant.
  • Prisoners believe there are 200 levels. Emphasis on “believe.”
  • We don’t know nearly as much about the prisoners, the prison, or really anything in this movie as we think we do.

Now, I’m a Gen Xer, raised in the era of slasher movies. I’ve seen disturbing movies. I’ve watched Audition, Clockwork Orange and even Human Centipede. (I’m so sorry about that last one.)

But the platform is different. His social commentary may seem obvious: Be kind to those below you, because you never know when you’ll hit rock bottom. But director Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia and screenwriters David Desola and Pedro Rivero take a seemingly simple idea and deliver it in a way that shocks the world.

I don’t want to see The Platform again. But every now and then I think about it. The plot still creeps around my head and I’m not sure I’ll ever get rid of it completely.

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