Streaming Spotlight: ‘The Similars’
Between Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, and Shudder, the world of streaming media can be overwhelming to navigate. While we try to alleviate this by giving you the run down on what new titles are being added each month, that only scratches the surface of the extensive libraries offered. There’s still a vast array of worthy titles from recent years that can be easily overlooked, which is why each month we’ll be shining the spotlight on great streaming titles that might have slipped past your notice or are worthy of a revisit.
This month’s spotlight film can be found on Netflix, though I can tell you right now it won’t be for everyone. Writer/Director Isaac Ezban’s sci-fi/horror feature mimics the look, tone, and feel of the original Twilight Zone series, complete with a color scheme nearly drained of all color, soft glow lighting, and bookending voiceovers with a narrator that invokes Gene Roddenberry. Set in a remote bus station in 1968, eight people waiting on a bus heading to Mexico City are trapped by a massive storm when strange phenomenon begin to occur.
The film takes a bit to warm up, slowly setting the stage for the madness to come while introducing us to our cast of characters and the setting in extremely jarring fashion. There’s a pulpy, almost telenovela vibe at the outset. The crazy shaman woman, the socially creepy bathroom attendant, and the station manager gives the bus station an off-putting feeling against the more normal characters like pregnant Irene or mine worker Ulises. It’s almost as though the multitude of retro sci-fi and horror homages collide into sensory overload, until the complete cast of eight finally come together and Ezban lets off the gas just enough to smooth out this ride and let the narrative take center stage.
The mystery behind the bus station will reel you in; Ezban seamlessly juxtaposes the bizarre humor of it against the atmospheric 1960s retro horror. You’ll laugh one moment and then become uncomfortable in another. Though, fans of the Twilight Zone series may catch on a lot sooner, as the central mystery at play closely mirrors a popular episode that’s been remade numerous times. Which one? I won’t say. Except even the loosest of fans will recognize the plot well into Ezban’s version of it.
As such, it’s a poignant message on identity, and Ezban injects a lot of his Mexican heritage into the proceedings. A lot of which may go unnoticed if you’re unfamiliar, or simply not paying attention to the radio broadcasts that give indication of what’s happening outside of the isolated bus station. There are a lot of political references, and in particular a lot references to the Tlatelolco massacre that occurred on October 2, 1968. The very same time period in which this film is set. Over the course of the running time it becomes clear that Ezban has a lot to say and cleverly hides it beneath a visually arresting throwback sci-fi/horror veneer. The Similars has a dual layer of enjoyment; you can appreciate the film for its absurdist, wacky sci-fi and horror homages alone, or you can dig deeper and fall in love with the intelligent depths of the narrative.
This won’t be for everyone; it’s a particular brand of weird that likely won’t be embraced by a mainstream audience. It’s also hindered a bit by a confusing opening, riddled with melodrama and eccentricity. If you can get past that, it’s a rewarding experience full of warped humor, demented villains, clever nods to history and culture, a rich retro score, and a lot of fun.