Tuesday, 7 November 2017

The Similars (2015)

Imagine a horror movie so strange that it resists easy categorisation. Imagine a Mexican film set in 1968, in a bus station. Imagine a plot that defies logic but has a remorseless, dream-like coherence. Imagine me writing an entire review like this. But it's difficult to stop, because this slightly ropy Rod Serling-style intro is just what The Similars offers. Among other things.

The Similars is one of those films that I watch all the way through because I'm genuinely intrigued. What on earth, I ask myself, is going to happen next? Superficially it's a tale of sci-fi horror, as a group of disparate individuals end up in a bus station some distance from Mexico City in a torrential storm. The rain is so bad that it's made road travel impossible. This is bad news for Ulises, a man whose wife is giving birth in a city hospital. He can't get to her, and is understandably stressed out by the unhelpful attitude of the sleazy old station manager, Martin.

Martin spends more time reading girly mags than attending to his duties. There's another occupant of the station, a Native American woman who apparently can't speak Spanish but seems intent on conducting rituals and issuing warnings in her native tongue. She clearly Knows Something. Enter a pregnant woman, Irene, who is desperate to escape a violent relationship. In the washroom Irene encounters the other member of staff, the slightly barmy Roberta. Another arrival, medical student Alvaro, looks remarkably like a groovy Peter Sellers, which I probably found more amusing than I should have done. Alvaro is apparently on his way to a big anti-government protest.. Last come a sick child, Ignacio, and his mother Gertrudis. The continued absence of buses cause stress, then come radio announcements suggesting that the rain is not normal. It seems to be causing strange transformations in people exposed to it, unspecified but shocking...

I won't spoil it by telling you what happens. Suffice to say it's a genuinely weird tale, as if Rod Serling roughed out an episode of the X-Files in partnership with Philip K. Dick. Sci-fi, sort of, horror quite definitely, but arguably it's also supernatural too. And it's a retro piece, replete with Sixties fashions and attitudes, especially in the clashes between the student and authority figures. It also has a period look. Apparently writer-director Isaac Ezban wanted to make it a black and white film, but settled for washed-out colours. All in all, this is a major change from anyone's usual fare.

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