The Similars (2016) Movie Review
“The Twilight Zone” often serves as a guidepost for lovers of science fiction, something of a baseline. If an idea that you have would make a great Twilight Zone episode, then it’s something worth writing about. I myself have used this approach quite often when writing, but never to the strange extent of “The Similars”, a Mexican science fiction film from 2016 that looks, feels, and sounds like an actual episode from a long-lost anthology collection that you found in an abandoned corner of the Blockbuster. I honestly can hardly believe that it exists, even after watching it twice.
The plot starts out strange and gets stranger. Eight folks are stranded at a remote bus stop amidst the biggest storm of the century. Buses have by and large been cancelled, and everybody there is desperately trying to get to Tlatelolco for one reason or another. Of course, this wouldn’t be a sci-fi movie without something strange befalling these poor saps. The rain conceals something far more sinister, and those trapped inside the bus station soon experience odd changes.
One thing that immediately jumps out is the set design. It explicitly looks like either a stageplay or a really poorly constructed movie set, with massive open spaces and very stage direction-esque placements and movements. The camera really hammers this home as well; certain shots frame the action in such a way that it legitimately looks like a black-and-white recording of a lost surrealist play in the tradition of “Waiting for Godot”. Characters walk about stiffly and with an obvious script in their heads. The omniscient narrator voice at the beginning and the ending outlines the story’s major beats in a way that almost confuses the matter more. And make no mistake, this is a confusing movie.
I found myself in a bizarre mood while taking this one in. Somewhere between hypnotic suggestion and gleeful giggling, I floated as each subsequent revelation drove the plot further down the winding road of insanity. I remember two distinct scenes during which I was literally yelling at the movie, either in confused frustration or “I can’t believe they’re about to show a dog with a human face” elation. I have to give the movie credit, though; I was actually surprised by where the plot went.
Apparently, the movie is loosely situated around the real-life Tlatelolco massacre, where hundreds of protestors, largely students, were slaughtered by the government in 1968. One of the characters, a 30-something man with either a gross wig on or the ugliest hair I’ve ever seen, is a student on his way to this very demonstration. I haven’t a clue how this plays into the larger narrative, but it’s enough to make me certain that there’s more going on with “The Similars” than would appear at first glance. It’s been a long time since I’ve been so utterly engrossed in such a strange film, and I highly recommend watching it at least once to see just how crazy film can get.