On a rainy night in an isolated bus station, eight strangers are brought together and undergo an experience that will not only change their lives, but the very nature of mankind’s existence forever as one by one they start to change, putting their trust and sanity on a knife’s edge, and facing a truth stranger than any fiction they could possibly imagine. An off-kilter mystery filled with reference and surreal shocks, The Similars is a unique experience marked by a willingness to embrace nostalgic pleasure, sneaking humour and a joyously twisted narrative to craft a thrillingly retro bizzaro mystery.

One of the most intoxicating and inspiring elements of The Similars comes in the form of its wonderfully constructed sense of homage to the mystery thrillers of the late 50’s and 60’s. The film is built from so many generic totems, with strong shades of The Twilight Zone, the films of Alfred Hitchcock, Night of the Living Dead, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Village of the Damned to name just a few core inspirations. In bringing these distinct works of 20th century science fiction and horror together, Ezban reveals their interconnectedness in terms of both mystery logic and unsettlingly tone, channelling them into his own work to distil their shared paranoia and dread to evoke within the textures of his own work. At once an act of the purest homage, Ezban also uses this appropriation to spark a sense of imagination that makes it distinct within modern cinema in its own right, avoiding becoming an example of limp cinematic bummery.  In this juxtaposition between reference and originality, and the sheer sincerity of imitation on display, the film’s form echoes the narrative’s ultimate nihilistic conclusion: nothing is the same…but everything is the same. The Similars is a unique work, but wholly familiar to the works it is lovingly riffing upon. It’s a pop blend of reference, and it’s a credit to director Isaac Ezban that he is able to bring it all together into a coherent and tremendously stylish whole, using the overwhelming tone as an overarching device to mould the film into a singular decent into an alternate space, where normality is distorted and nothing is as it seems. Of course, equally, a tremendous amount of the film’s success belongs to the ensemble cast who play this increasingly bizarre situation with the poise and conviction of an Agatha Christie chamber piece, reinforcing the atmosphere of tension and playfulness through the precision and awareness of their space within the world of the film. It really is a joy to see the layers of filmmaking in such creative harmony.

The Similars thrives on a sense of nostalgic dread, creating an uneasy tension between characters and imagery that pervades every frame. As the mystery grows over the strange transformations affecting the group, the film also shifts and morphs into darker shades, becoming ever bolder in both the levels of surrealism and the sheer darkness of the film, as the pulpy tone evolves into something even more abundant with menace and the potential for utter chaos to explode outward with venom. Interestingly, as gripping as the film’s dark tones are, it is the level of campy excess at the heart of the tale that helps define The Similars as a complete and entrancing piece. By the time the film reaches the final third, the fog of mystery parts to allow the film to dive into the depths of the madness and strange reality it has teased throughout, but furthermore it expands upon a sense of intentioned humour in sheer bizarre concept itself. It’s as strangely comic as it is strangely disconcerting, absolutely aware of the ridiculousness inherent in the concept, but in playing it completely straight, achieves sort of bold personality, serving to amplify the surreal nature of the film in both the dimensions of camp and horror, a truly delicate balance that Ezban and his cast masterfully trapeze.

The Similars is, at its purest, a love letter to a particular style of intelligent and willingly bizarre genre cinema that reflected its era of political and social upheaval through a funhouse mirror. Ezban takes these stylistic markers as a reference to create a mystery that is at once a celebration and re-appropriation of this form, forming as a playful and endlessly captivating work of modern homage, which is unquestionably one of the year’s most satisfying oddities.

Horror Channel Frightfest review: The Similars
4.0Overall Score
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About The Author

Matthew Hammond is a full time cinephile, specializing in cult, art house and 1980’s cinema. While film is his overwhelming passion, Matthew has been known to enjoy comic books, Sherlock Holmes stories and a good film related T-shirt. Feel free to email me with any questions or comments: mattpaul61@o2.co.uk