The Similars (Los Parecidos) written and directed by Isaac Ezban. The movie takes us to a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity, paying tribute to The Twilight Zone. The Similars opens with a monologue delivered with the same pauses and inflections (at least to my English speaking ears: the movie is in Spanish) Rod Sterling used during The Twilight Zone’s opening sequence and during his episode book-ending monologues. The set-up of The Similars is near-identical to season 2, episode 28 of The Twilight Zone, “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?” A roomful of strangers delayed on a bus trip — in “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?” because of a blizzard and in The Similars because of a hurricane — trying to figure out who the outsider is. It’s a locked-room mystery. In “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?” the characters believe one of the people in the diner where they’re laying over is an alien. To have a fulfilling 90 minutes, The Similars ups the ante by adding to the mystery. Something is happening to the 8 strangers in the bus station, and they aren’t sure if one of them is causing it or it has to do with the hurricane, if it’s magical or scientific, or whether or not it’s happening or they’re hallucinating. Ezban does a wonderful job of stoking these paranoid tensions until the characters go into a frenzy.
Though this is only Ezben’s second feature-length film, he previously directed 9 award winning short films and made a short film per week for a full year while in college and that experience shows. He has restraint with the camera, shooting much of the film in simple shots opposite the waiting area in the bus station, but he knows how to add a flourish. In perhaps the best shot of the film, Martin (Fernando Becerill) is looking at a picture taken of he and his wife on their wedding day. He covers his younger face with a mirror, and the shot brilliantly captures his older face transplanted over the younger body without blocking his wife. Amazing work, which is made even more impressive because the movie doesn’t overuse that kind of gorgeous camera work. It instead puts the viewer first, shooting in such a way that the action is always clear to the viewer.
The film is stylized so that it would fit in with the B-movies being released in 1968, the year the story takes place. There are gruesome moments, one of which is alluded to in the trailer when a splatter of blood makes a line down a wall, but they’re shot in a throw-back style, being implied rather than shown. Part of this decision must’ve had to do with the film’s budget, but the stylization works so well that it never feels cheap. Instead, it feels like an intentional choice. Other scenes have punches obviously not connecting, and gun shots being sound effects without flashing lights. The score, which is excellent, in the opening and closing credits builds on this throwback style, though in the movie itself much of the soundtrack is provided by the station’s radio.
The Similars also manipulates its color palette in intriguing ways. Its shot in black and white at first, but color slips into little, important details as we go. In that way, it’s reminiscent of 2005’s Sin City. I mention that and not Schindler’s List because The Similars has a love for comic books. Ignacio (Santiago Torres) reads one to Ulises (Gustavo Sánchez Parra) at one point and it informs both the movies sensibility and the readers understanding of what’s happening.
My criticisms are minimal. I had issues with the subtitles fading too fast and having typographical errors. The opening and closing monologues didn’t quite hit the mark they were going for and meandered a bit. The problem was more pronounced in the opening, when it starts out by introducing us to Martin, spending time to talk about his routine, and then says, “However, Martin isn’t an important character in this story.” It does turn out to be someone else’s story, but if the narrator knows that, why is he starting out by telling us about Martin? Why are we spending the first five minutes of the film with a character that the omniscient narrator says isn’t important?
Really though, the movie sets out to be a love-letter to The Twilight Zone, B-sci-fi and horror, and comic books. It picks out the aspects of those things that people love — the camp, the weirdness, and the potential for anything to happen. The set designs are wonderful, especially Martin’s back room. The pictures on his wall do so much to characterize him and then come back later in a hilarious yet frightening way. And that’s what this movie is about. It’s campy yet unsettling and surprising in the smallest details. All in all, it adds up to a hell of a fun time.
WICKED RATING: 8.5 /10
Director: Isaac Ezban
Writers: Isaac Ezban
Stars: Gustavo Sánches Parra, Cassandra Ciangherotti, Fernando Becerril
Release: November 15, 2016
Studio/ Production Co: Caminante Films, Red Elephant, Yellow Films
Length: 89 minutes