Reading the synopsis doesn’t give one much to go on as far as what to expect when sitting down to enjoy The Passenger (Spanish title: La Pasajera). The tagline, “Don’t sit by her” is vague enough to set up nearly any common horror premise. After a rather unnecessary and uninformative cold open where we see a couple of backpackers fall victim to a mysterious woman who walks out of a fog bank, we begin to meet our true road trip companions.
First we meet Blasco (Ramiro Blas), former bullfighter, former exterminator, former musician, current rideshare driver, van enthusiast, and good old fashion misogynist. His van quickly fills up with female passengers. Mariela (Cecilia Suárez) is a deeply religious nurse traveling to see her father while Lidia (Cristina Alcázar) and Marta (Paula Gallego) are a mother/teen daughter duo who don’t seem to be getting along very well. I don’t think that long distance ride share services are a thing so much in America, but I’ve now seen a couple of European movies with this as a set up and it really is a great plot device for trapping a group of strangers into a tight location to amp up the tension of a story. The characters might be a bit cliche on the surface, but it all just works to give us a quick idea of what kind of people we are dealing with so we can get on with the story. As you can imagine, the women immediately don’t like Blasco, and he immediately doesn’t like them much either.
As they drive into the night on a small highway distracted by bickering and an intense lightning storm, they hit someone crossing the road. As is always the case in these sorts of movies, there is debate about the right thing to do. Ultimately, they load the injured woman into the van while agreeing to get her help in the next town. This is where we learn, along with the rest of the gang, that there’s some strange shit going on out there! Marta studies a weird blobby substance along the side of the road while Blasco encounters a larger structure that appears to have crashed out of the sky. The band of strangers now has to focus their hostility away from each other and onto surviving the rest of the trip.
This is where The Passenger gets really fun without going fully silly. The effects are appropriately gooey and lit in bright greens and deep blues to give that old school sci-fi effect while modern technology keeps the entities from looking cheap. Everything looks great. From the beautiful Spanish countryside to the tight shots inside the van, the camera work is impressive. Directing team Raúl Cerezo and Fernando González Gómez also ensure that the story keeps tight pace. As soon as we fall into step with our band of travelers, the action kicks off before we can get too comfortable. Once the group is working together to stay alive and un-body snatched, the stakes feel high. You just want them to pull it together and come out on the other side of this safely. It’s never that easy though, and there is plenty of body horror to keep things exciting. One thing I liked in particular is that every fact you learn about each character comes back as their fates play out. Not a single detail is wasted. While this might not be the most unique premise, the end result is such a good time that I didn’t care much about the tropes and cliches.
Check this one out when you get the chance.