★★★★ out of ★★★★★
Directed by Raúl Cerezo and Fernando Gonzáles Gómez
Can a misogynistic rideshare driver and a trio of strong-willed women work together to survive a monstrous attack? Spanish horror outing The Passenger attempts to answer that question in a gruesome, fast-paced romp.
The subgenre of rideshare horror rolls on in Spanish chiller The Passenger, in which a woman and her teen daughter and another woman unknown to them hire a driver who uses his old pest control van to pick up some extra cash. Along with gallons of fun goop and gore, the film shows a lot of unexpected heart among its quartet of main characters, who must put aside their differences and try to band together if any of them wish to survive the weird occurrences that await them.
Blasco (Ramiro Blas) is the driver of the van. Mariela (Cecilia Suárez) needs the ride to visit her father. Joining her are single mother Lidia (Cristina Alcázar) and her daughter Marta (Paula Gallego), who are going to see Marta’s father. Blasco makes some misogynistic remarks and his side glances at Marta, who is riding shotgun, doesn’t help matters any as the three women take umbrage at his comments. When the van hits a woman — while the adults are investigating, Marta comes into contact with something slimy and seemingly not of this Earth — the quartet puts her in the can and heads to a hospital. This decision turns out to be a big mistake, as the stranger is about to unleash all kinds of deadly havoc.
Codirectors Raúl Cerezo and Fernando Gonzáles Gómez have crafted a frenzied, fun creature feature romp boasting great-looking practical effects. The duo’s pacing is terrific, as they heap on the horror and add delightful elements of dark humor and engaging drama.
Luis Sánchez-Polack’s screenplay helps viewers get behind the protagonists despite their initial bickering, thanks to crisply written dialogue and strong character arcs. Blasco and Lidia are the strongest characters, and though the former may initially alienate some viewers because of his brusque attitude and the latter may at first seem like just another surly teen in a horror movie, the more we learn about them, the more we like them. Blas and Gallego are outstanding in their roles, and the other cast members acquit themselves solidly, too.
Comparisons of The Passenger to Sam Raimi’s horror output are hard to get around, but Cerezo and Gómez are far more on the side of homage than mere mimicry. Their film tugs at the heartstrings as well as jangles the nerves, and it looks fantastic doing so.
Review by Joseph Perry
The Passenger screened as part of Panic Fest, which ran April 28–May 8, 2022, in Kansas City, with a virtual option. For more information, visit https://panicfilmfest.com/.
Darkstar Pictures and Bloody Disgusting present The Passenger in theaters on June 3, 2022 and On Demand and Digital on June 28,2022.
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