“THE SIMILARS” (Film Review)Movies/TV,News,Reviews Madeleine Koestner
Isaac Ezban’s second feature, THE SIMILARS, opens at night amidst a heavy rain. We are introduced to a man who although crucial to the story is not the focus, a powerfully voiced narrator explains. Within these first few moments, it’s pretty clear what we’re in for: a stylish old-school science fiction throwback in muted colors with a whole lot of atmosphere.
The movie’s lone set is an eerie late night bus station, and a quick exploration of the building brings us to a face we’ll grow very familiar with, that of Ulises (Gustavo Sánchez Parra), who is trying to make his way to the hospital to be with his wife in labor. We will spend the movie confined to this bus station with him and a group of other characters, all trapped inside as the rain pours outside and the radio gives ominous updates on some unexplained event. As they wait impatiently for a bus that won’t arrive, something strange is happening, and fingers are being pointed.
It’s extremely clear that THE SIMILARS is influenced primarily by THE TWILIGHT ZONE, and fans of the classic show will find bits and pieces of some of the best episodes nestled in the movie’s story. Yet, it at no point feels like a montage of references, THE SIMILARS has its own bizarre tale that feels fresh, unique, and true to the program that inspired it. Tying the events into a true-to-life political unrest in Mexico, Ezban has also tapped into one of the things the science fiction genre has always done so well. An INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS-style commentary on paranoia and classist distrust adds another layer to the story and another nod to the genre’s roots.
When you break it down: the subject matter of THE SIMILARS is inherently funny, but there’s no in-joke or wink to the camera. A pervasive visual gag (which I’ve chosen not to divulge in this review: it’s much weirder when you don’t expect it) carries throughout the film. Although it will crack you up a few times, the story plays it straight. THE SIMILARS sells its silliness as scary, and by the end, you believe this ridiculous occurrence is really terrifying. You’ll be scratching your face for days, telling yourself there’s no way… But what if?
Ezban roped in a great team of effects artist for the characters’ transformations, and the all-practical route serves the movie very well. Digital effects not only would have shattered the illusion that the film is of different time, but they lend themselves to making this specific reveal seem organic to the story.
Since his Cronenberg-inspired short film COSAS FEAS (which I highly recommend watching right HERE) appeared on the screens of genre festivals five years ago, Isaac Ezban has been a filmmaker to watch. His voice has been a great addition to the wave of weird and intelligent genre movies coming from Mexico. And after viewing THE SIMILARS a second time at SF IndieFest, this writer can attest it still holds up even once you know the twists, and is just as entertaining and strange- much like revisiting a favorite old episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE.