The Passenger (La Pasajera) - Grimmfest UK Premiere Review
Director: Raúl Cerezo, Fernando González Gómez
Starring: Ramiro Blas, Cecil Suárez, Paula Gallego, Cristina Alcázar
Written by: Luis Sánchez-Polack, Asier Guerricaechebarria, Javier Echániz, Raúl Cerezo
Produced by: Juan Barquin, José Luis Rancaño
Cinematography by: Ignacio Aguilar
Original Score by: Alejandro Román
The occupants of a van transporting a wounded excursionist have to avoid sitting next to her during the trip.
Is there anything worse than a motormouth taxi driver when all you want is a bit of peace and quiet? As they harp on about how they might put the world to rights or reminisce about the good old days you just sit there praying for the sweet release of death. Be careful what you wish for though as there is a chance you could face the same fate as the characters from Raúl Cerezo and Fernando González Gómez's horror/comedy 'The Passenger'. A film where the characters are sharing what could be their final journey thanks to a back seat intergalactic parasite hellbent on mayhem.
After the cold opening where a pair of backpackers are attacked by an alien menace in a flesh suit, we are introduced to the film's protagonist Blasco (played by Ramiro Blas). A jack of all trades and unashamed chauvinist, we first meet him polishing his beloved van (Nessa as in Van-Nessa). Blas is clearly having a ball playing the role and manages to inject enough humour and humanity to the character to make you root for the anti-hero throughout his redemptive arc despite his shortcomings.
As a chauffeur he taxis unimpressed fares in his converted pest control van across the Spanish countryside. The first passenger we are introduced to is the religious Mariela (played by Cecilia Suárez) whose straight-laced manner is at odds with the brazen musings of Blasco. Initially she seems to be nothing more than a stick in the mud that Suárez plays well but in a pivotal scene for her character we learn about the reason for her journey in a subtle yet emotional scene handled with the gentlest of touches by Suárez.
The last of the passengers are mother and daughter pairing of Lidia and Marta (played by Cristina Alcázar and Paula Gallego respectively). Alcázar delivers a solid performance as the mother whose strained relationship with her daughter causes tension between the two. Gallego shines in her role though mainly due to the wonderful chemistry she shares with Blas. The banter between the two works really well adding just the right amount of levity to the more tense moments of the film.
For a film that takes place mostly in and around the single location of the van itself, there is a concern that the film could become cumbersome very quickly but directors Raúl Cerezo and Fernando González Gómez creative camera work always keep you engaged with everything happening on screen. Be it Blasco feeding Marta bullshit stories from his past or Marta arguing with her mother about having to stay with her estranged father for a few months, you are engaged with each person's background and story, making you care and relate to them before things take a turn for the worse. The use of a split diopter lens is utilised to great effect during conversations between those in the front and back of the van too allowing you to be engaged with each character's differing perspectives at the same time.
Whilst the film opens with a decent pace thanks to the brisk dialogue and fine character development in Luis Sánchez-Polack's script it kicks into a higher gear after Blasco accidently runs over a woman. He picks her up to take her to a hospital but her problems (and the future problems for everyone onboard) extends beyond the injuries she has sustained. She isn't immobile for long as the extra-terrestrial within makes their grand entrance with an impressive amalgamation between practical and computer effects complete with a suitable amount of gloop to make horror hounds smile with glee. The chaos doesn't stop there though as heads are decapitated and faces are peeled off in a riotous fashion to the bandstand based score from Alejandro Román.
After peaking with this explosion of violence the film becomes a little laboured, slowing down a little too much after the initial attack failing to regain any sort of momentum. It's not so much a stop for breath but a slamming on the brakes that the film never recovers from as it fails to get going again up to and including the film's climax.
Whilst the film doesn't present anything we haven't seen before within the genre, the characters and their relationships with each other (good and bad) keeps the audience engaged throughout thanks to the creativity from behind the camera. Despite a few bumps along the way the impressive effects and likeable characters makes 'The Passenger' a thoroughly entertaining journey.
- Joseph McElroy
'The Passenger' received it's UK Premiere at Grimmfest on October 6th