THE PASSENGER movie poster | ©2022 Dark Star Pictures

THE PASSENGER movie poster | ©2022 Dark Star Pictures

Rating: Not Rated
Stars: Ramiro Blas, Cecilia Suárez, Paula Gallego, Cristina Alcázar
Writer: Luis Sánchez-Polack, developed by Asier Guerricaechebarria & Javier Enchánez, story by Raúl Cerezo
Directors: Fernando González Gómez & Raúl Cerezo
Distributor: Dark Star Pictures
Release Date: June 3, 2022

THE PASSENGER (LA PASAJERA) has publicity that makes it sound more interesting than most of us will find it. “Don’t sit next to her,” the tag line warns. Sounds potentially intriguing, right?

Well, never mind that, because that’s not exactly what’s going on here in the first place.

In the prologue, two lost hikers make it through the woods onto a highway, but can’t figure out which way they ought to go. While they’re figuring this out, mist rises. A woman in an evening gown with a bloody mouth emerges from the fog. One of the hikers thinks perhaps she’s hurt, goes to help her, and she attacks him.

Not that we get a great look at the woman, but even at a distance, there seems to be more with her than an injury.

Cut to Carlos (Ramiro Blas), who prefers to be called Blasco. Blasco currently makes a living by driving people to remote villages in the Spanish mountains. His vehicle is his former pest control van, which doubles as his home.

When Blasco only has one passenger, Mariela (Cecilia Suárez), who is clearly a religious Christian, he wastes no time insulting her beliefs and nationality (she’s Mexican, which he calls “South American,” even though she points out that Mexico is part of North America). When he stops to pick up passengers Lidia (Cristina Alcázar) and her teen daughter Marta (Paula Gallego), Blasco quickly establishes his sexism, mockery of those who deplore animal cruelty (Lidia and Marta both criticize bullfighting), and, for good measure, casual homophobia, a “caveman,” as he calls himself.

Naturally, we are meant to find him charmingly old-fashioned. This is not, objectively, a filmmaking flaw, just a characterization that may make some viewers (like this one) less invested in the film. On the other hand, it may make other viewers more invested. It’s definitely a distinct choice.

The van passes what appears to be a crashed extraterrestrial craft. Nobody thinks to call the authorities. Marta comes in in brief contact with something that likely came out of the craft. Likewise, she doesn’t tell anyone.

After an accident, Blasco is forced by his passengers to stop and pick up a woman who appears to be the victim of a hit and run. On closer inspection, there seems to be more wrong with her than a vehicular collision.

We can probably forgive the characters for not coming more quickly to the conclusion that viewers will reach at once. In any case, this is the passenger of the title, and she wastes little time in wreaking havoc.

In broad strokes, we’ve seen THE PASSENGER before. Directors Fernando González Gómez & Raúl Cerezo – the latter also came up with the storyline, which was developed by Asier Guerricaechebarria & Javier Enchánez,and scripted by Luis Sánchez-Polack – are going for a mixture of playfulness and ominous atmosphere. The atmosphere is undeniable. The playfulness requires sharing both their sense of humor and a suspension of disbelief that some things that seem like they should be very loud are inaudible.

Blas gives a committed, multi-dimensional performance, and Alcázar impresses as a woman whose sleek, steely exterior conceals warmth and courage. Creature design and effects are topnotch.

THE PASSENGER starts slow, and when it revs up, it’s nothing new story-wise. However, for those in the mood for a nighttime journey that fills up with slime, blood and body horror, THE PASSENGER gets us there.

In Spanish, with subtitles.

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