Writer: Isaac Ezban
Cast: Gustavo Sánchez Parra, Cassandra Ciangherotti, Carmen Beato, Humberto Busto, Santiago Torres
Running time: 90mins
Original Title: Los Parecidos
What’s the story: Mexico City, 1968. On a dark, rain swept night a group of strangers wait in a bus terminus for the long delayed next service. As more people arrive, events grow weirder and darker.
What’s the verdict: At first glance, The Similars may seem… familiar. John Carpenter’s The Thing and George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead loom large in writer/director Isaac Ezban’s irresistible movie.
As does The Twilight Zone. Edy Lan’s Bernard Herrmann-esque score, the opening titles’ old fashioned font, and a scene-setting voiceover narration place it firmly within the Zone. The basic plot echoes the classic Vera Miles-starring episode “Mirror Image” (plus another episode we’ll not reveal for fear of spoiling the twist).
In the confines of the bus terminus frantic father-to-be Ulises (Parra) is trying to get to Mexico City to be with his wife, heavily in labour.
He is joined by Irene (Ciangherotti), pregnant herself and heading for Mexico City to escape her abusive boyfriend. Joining them is militant medical student Álvaro (Busto), harassing station attendant Martin (Becerril) for not knowing when the next bus will arrive. Amongst others gathering in the station is imposing society woman Gertrudis (Beato) and her sickly, strange son Ignacio (Torres).
As with all good apocalypse movies, world-changing goings-on are relayed via increasingly panicked radio broadcasts, here warning of something in the rain… and then strange things begin occurring inside the terminus.
But, Ezban is not interested in empty homage or lazy rip-off. The Similars is a polished gem of a movie, funny and frightening and bursting with invention. The League of Gentlemen does 1950s paranoia sci-fi best sums it up.
Effortlessly maneuvering the large cast through the wild tale, the director throws out story clues but consistently surprises with an arsenal of plot twists. Sly swipes at fears of immigration and untrustworthy governments bring this period movie bang up to date.
Camerawork is Hitchcockian in the best sense, tight and claustrophobic when fear and suspicion grip the group, playful and flamboyant when mayhem erupts. And although opening in black and white, the film smartly uses colour as the story unfolds.
With so many moving parts, this all could have collapsed into an incoherent mess. That it works so well is testament to Ezban’s mastery of mood and story, knowing when to tickle the funny bone and when to go for the jugular.
You may spot the TV shows and movies he’s referencing, but you’re unlikely to guess where The Similars will take you. Or the sights you’ll see along the way.
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