THE SIMILARS (October 7th)
YOU'VE GOT RED ON YOU TAKES PART IN THE 31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN CHALLENGE; WATCHING ONE HORROR MOVIE A DAY THROUGHOUT OCTOBER. SOME OF THEM OLD, SOME OF THEM NEW, SOME OF THEM HAVE JUST BEEN ON OUR SHELVES FOR YEARS GATHERING DUST, STILL IN CELLOPHANE...
Sometimes you watch a film and although you don’t really know what’s going on, you kinda enjoy it. And even when the credits roll and you’re still frowning, your takeaway is that it was a generally viewing experience, despite the fact you still have a whole host of questions. Actually, that rarely happens - but indeed these were my initial thoughts and feelings after I had finished watching Isaac Ezban’s ‘The Similars’ - a fascinatingly weird science fiction fantasy horror about a bunch of people holed up inside a remote bus station in Mexico City.
Set in 1968 (and filmed with a suitably retro look) and set against the backdrop of the Tlatelolco Massacre, the film starts off with a handful of people inside the empty bus station, all frustrated because the storm outside (that seems to be affecting other countries around the world) has affected their travel plans for the evening. There's a guy whose pregnant wife is due to give birth in the city hospital and who is fretting that he might miss it, there's a pregnant woman who is trying to escape her abusive husband, the old ticket guy who spends his time browsing porno mages. Oh and there's an old lady who wanders around yelling at people in another language. It's all a bit odd anyway but when the old ticket guy has a seizure in a back office and then emerges with his face bandaged up , things get even weirder. When the others remove the bandages things go from weird to downright freaky. I mean, I could give more info than that but it's probably best to go into this knowing as little as possible (which makes it a little harder to write about obviously!)
Director Isaac Ezban was only 29 when 'The Similars' was released, which makes it all the more impressive. The film definitely has it's own vibe and style but it's also something of a love letter to a whole host of other genre titles. Twilight Zone, Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock presents and Identity are just a few that jumped out to me but there are numerous other influences at play here. But rather than feeling like a confused rip-off, the 60's/70s sci-fi and mystery ingredients all work together quite nicely for the most part. It feels absurd and farcical at various points but never amusing enough to be considered comedic anyway – barring maybe a couple of shots of 'altered' porno mag pages (you'll know what I mean if you seen it). There's also a couple of scenes of extreme violence that remind you this isn't a light-hearted mystery flick. One in particular where a certain character tries to hack off their own.....ok, I won't spoil that little sweetheart either!
There are times when I found The Similars to be...almost annoying, however. It operates on a psychological level so it was never going to be a straightforward narrative. There's a lot of fun to be had trying to work out what the hell is going at certain points (and I still need to do a bit of reading up as I have my own theories on certain aspects of the story) but there's a portion of the film – the middle thirty mins or so – where the squabbling and yelling between the central characters, who have reached new heights of paranoia at this point, begins to drag a little. You'll either love how bonkers and surreal it all is or it will begin to grate on you. For the most part, I dug it – but the resolution for a plot this intriguing was always unlikely to match what came before it. It is consistent with the logic of the story but ultimately a little unsatisfying. Watch it for the awesome monochrome/desaturated look and the sheer wonderment that the first hour brings but just maybe lower your expectations of a finale that matches it. Still, an interesting and thought provoking Mexican indie that's worth your attention.