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La Pasajera, The Passenger (2021)
Directed by: Fernando González Gómez, Raúl Cerezo
Written by: Asier Guerricaechebarría, Javier Echániz, Luis Sánchez-Polack, Raúl Cerezo
Starring: Cecilia Suárez, Cristina Alcázar, Paula Gallego, Ramiro Blas

Directed by Raúl Cerezo and Fernando González Gómez
Spanish Language with English Subtitles
Screened at Grimmfest 2022

A group travelling in a camper van find themselves fighting for their lives when they pick up a passenger not of this world…

Blasco is a charismatic chauffeur, but one that his passengers would wish would shut up, except for his youngest passenger, teenager Lidia. She’s sassy and chock full of putdowns, but she seems a likeable kid in her own way and she doesn’t seem to mind Blasco. Blind in one eye and full of tales of bullfighting and playing in a punk band in the eighties, Blasco’s a character all right and his love for Nessa, his camper van, is one that is everlasting. as we find out in Spanish language sci-fi thriller, THE PASSENGER (aka LA PASAJERA)!.

It’s quite fun watching the passengers and Blasco bicker with one another during the road trip, using this as a way to build their characters and learn why they’re on their travels and where their end destination is. By the time they end up in the company of an injured woman, who they decide to take to the hospital, we have a solid idea about who they are. All that we know is put to the test though when their latest passenger proves to be more than a handful, providing a night none of them will ever forget.

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Blending comedy with horror, in what essentially is a road trip survival flick, THE PASSENGER is chock full of fun but can switch on the terror when needed as the characters confront unimaginable horror. Having spent time with the characters, you’re invested in them and so when things turn south, it feels like we’re on the fight for survival with them as they try to escape the unknown and seemingly unstoppable terror that hunts them.

The main draw of the movie and why it works so well is the intimate way in which we’re introduced to the characters and the story – through the claustrophobic setting of a van. The partnership between Blasco and Lidia is quite an interesting one as it’s clear the teen, despite her smart bite-backs against the old-fashioned attitude of Blasco, feels more relaxed in his company than she does with her own mother. As the duo seemingly have fun bantering back and forth in the front, Lidia’s frustrated mother Marta and carer Mariela seem to go berserk in the back, completely unhappy with the man they must endure driving them to their end destination. The unusual bond between Blasco and Lidia grows, in what can be seen as a father/daughter style relationship, though there is also a flicker of something more adult about it, perhaps due to her age, though this avenue is never pursued. This partnership, just like Blasco’s dedication to his beloved Nessa, is the heart of the movie, as the two rely on each other to survive the trip. They work brilliantly as two different personalities, with Lidia’s frosty attitude exposed as a cover for her genuine concerns and child-like fears, highlighting her age and insecurities, allowing Blasco to adopt the fatherly protector role. But when push comes to shove, will Blasco look to save his own skin over that of a bunch of strangers he met only hours previously?

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Fantastically funny with a wit and heart about it, THE PASSENGER‘s truth strength is making you care about its characters. Though the horror elements lack a little in comparison, it still conveys a sense of jeopardy which will have you panicking right along with the film’s protagonists.

With its feeling of isolation, the film creates a frightening sense of despair when things go south but, by hook or by crook, we know that Blasco, accompanied by his beloved Nessa, won’t go down without a fight!

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Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

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