The Similars (2016) – REVIEW

the-similars-poster04Isaac Ezban’s entry in the Mexico Barbaro anthology was my least favorite by a long shot. It was misogynistic, predictable, unfunny, had poor creature effects, and it used an annoying beat-up-old film filter effect that added nothing to the story and distracted the viewer. So, when I heard his latest, The Similars (Los Parecidos), was coming to VOD, I wasn’t exactly tripping over myself trying to see it.  But I got a screener and the trailer made it look interesting (as trailers are wont to do), so I checked it out. Should you? Well, that’s what you’re here to find out, right?

 

Ulises is trapped in a bus station outside of Mexico City during a massive storm. He’s desperate to make it to the city where his wife is in labor at the hospital. The labor is difficult but the interference on the landline phone is too much for him to understand exactly why. A very pregnant woman staggers into the station with a bruised face. She’s fleeing her abusive husband, and she too is eager to get on a bus. The only other people in the place are the ticket clerk, the janitor, and an old woman (Mayan?) who doesn’t speak Spanish, but seems very agitated by the very presence of Ulises. Three more characters soon join them. A med student, a prim looking woman, and her special needs son who behaves very strangely and must be subdued with injections into a contraption he wears around his neck. As the storm rages on with no end in sight, the unfortunate would-be bus riders start to experience some bizarre physical changes that fall well outside of normal. Who’s to blame? Who infected them? Are they subjects of a secret government experiment? Will they survive the storm?

 

Ezban definitely exceeded my expectations (and all but eliminated the bad taste his Mexico Barbaros short left me with). He left the schlock behind (thankfully) and wears his influences (well, influence, singular) on his sleeve with The Similars. The film is a loving homage to “The Twilight Zone”, complete with strange circumstances, paranoia, a surprising twist, and (almost) black-and-white photography (unfortunately, with added film grain and scratches effects). The story is even set in the late 60s (i think. i mean, i’m pretty sure it is) as if it picked up the torch just a few short years after the seminal TV series ended. Maybe that’s why the acting is slightly hammy (but not disastrously so). Like those classics twisted tales, this one is intriguing throughout. The viewer is drawn into the mystery quickly and interest is held as the stakes increase gradually until the climax. The central conflict (“infection”) of the story (one i don’t want to spoil) is clever and it’s pulled off in a delightfully simple but effective way. (there’s even a direct nod to the presumptive inspiration for it – 1956’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers) In fact, clever is a great way to describe the whole film. It’s good and fun and smartly paced / written, but it may not offer much in the way of rewatchability. Story-wise, the twists are it’s greatest asset. Sure, there are some impressive shots and cringe-worthy violence, but in the end, once you’ve enjoyed the ride, you probably won’t be compelled to do it again. That’s not a bad thing (it worked for The Sixth Sense) – 90 minutes of clever fun is a lot more than most movies offer.

 

The Final Cut: The Similars is clever homage to “The Twilight Zone”. It is a fun ride with a unique conflict and a few surprising twists.

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