Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Overlook Theatre Reviews: The Similars

of 8 viewers "Liked" "The Similars" (2015, USA)
Here's what the creatures had to say:

Math Mage - "5 episodes of The Twilight Zone got in a car accident and woke up in a movie. Entirely green-screened and entirely awesome, weakened only by too long of a runtime (or one too few twists; it could go either way). Animated in a google doc in a gulag." - 4 Stars

Lord Battle - "Twilight Zone worship with hints of Hitchcock. Runs too long and has the aesthetics of a green screen dungeon. I would have liked to see The Similars go further in its third act but then again, this film is clearly not for me. I think the audience that this was intended for will love it." - 3 Stars

The Berkeley Blazer - "The Similars is an intriguing Twilight Zone-tinged allegory that ultimately fizzles out in its final third, but is worth a look for its able handling of a bizarre premise and solid performances by a talented ensemble cast. The ominous narrator intro/ outro and black and white color scheme are “aged” via digital effects but it works for this film the same way Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow worked in that the digital overlay is permeated so much of the film that it doesn’t feel jarring or out of place. Los Parecidos (LP) doesn’t reveal its hand until late in the film and this is its greatest strength; the mystery at its core leaves the viewer puzzled far into the runtime. So what is it about? This is a diodrama about a bunch of strangers gathered by fate to be at a bus station during a real puta madre of a rainstorm in Mexico. Everyone either needs to get somewhere or just wants to be left alone. Of course, as each of their stories are unfolded the already frayed relationship dynamics the group starts with gets juicier and juicier, and tensions escalate via a strange disease that, both horrifying and belly-laugh inducing, spreads among the coterie of infected. The social commentary is on the nose yet effective and fair; the film never feels like it’s taking sides and I for one found it relevant to the political sphere we are currently mired in. Most importantly, the commentary never overtakes the power of the immediate situation away, and most viewers who stay for at least twenty minutes will be pulled into the befuddling situation the strangers all face. Unfortunately, when the movie finally shows all its cards is when it begins to falter, unraveling on both a philosophical and narrative level. Simply put, once you know what's happening in the movie the film really has nowhere to go, but nevertheless tries to hang on much longer than is necessary. It’s unfortunate that what could have been a satisfying climax overstays its welcome and dampens the overall impact of the film on the viewer. I went from “oh my, what will happen next” to “I just want to go home”, and yet I do not regret the journey this movie took me on. Chances are you won't either." - 3.5 Stars

Trash (R) - "I’ve had my eye on director Isaac Ezban since I saw his short film Cosas Feas (which is online, look it up!) at a festival forever ago, and since then he’s made two awesome sci-fi horror features, The Incident and The Similars! The influences for The Similars are displayed pretty obviously, but without being at all annoying. Instead, it feels as if you’re discovering a lost episode of The Twilight Zone or a similar program, with a clever story and FX that look authentic to the time and style. And even if that crazy sight gag is inherently funny, the movie is so on point it makes something really silly into something unexpectedly creepy. The most brilliant thing of all is there’s never any wink to the camera. I can’t wait to see what this guy makes next." - 4 stars

Dabbles - "This was one big Twilight Zone episode. It was real good in my opinion. The Similars is one of those movies that hopes you are on board and takes a left turn which I was totally on board. Might be a specific taste though." - 5 Stars

Huntress - "Visually, The Similars reminded me of Sin City; lots of CG but blended into the rest of the movie so well that it doesn't stand out in a bad way. Everything was given the glamour shot kind of haze, but the film itself didn't have a drop of glamour in it. It was definitely an interesting film, and one I could see re-watching in the future." -3 Stars

Captured by the Beast - "I was into the beginning of The Similars but lost interest kind of quick. Then I just kept wishing the clerk was the main character." - 2 Stars

The Great Hornito - "The Similars has a very interesting storyline and creepy special effects. The movie was a bit too long but the overall pace is okay. If you are a Twilight Zone fan then you should check this one out." - 3.5 Stars

(R) - Viewed the film remotely, which may have impacted the reviewer's opinion.

The Overlook Theatre Final Rating*
(Below is for after you've seen the film)

The Similars won our weekly Twitter poll last week and completely caught the creatures by surprise. I'm not just referring to the film's narrative, but its style, run length, and nationality. We could not have come into this film more blind. After the screening it was pretty clear that everyone caught on to the Twilight Zone vibe but it still felt like there was a lot going on that may have been over our heads. So I've taken a few questions from an interview Isaac Ezban (director of The Similars) did with about Lovecraftian horror, sci-fi films, and The Similars.
Your impressive short film “Nasty Stuff” gloriously bathed in Lovecraftian horror. Now your debut feature “The Incident” delves into intellectual/metaphysical science fiction. And right now you just finished your second feature film “The Similars,” which, by the look of the first teaser trailer, looks like it could have some horror again. So, are you more of a horror fan, or more of a science fiction fan?

Isaac Ezban - "Something in between, a little bit of both, with a foot in both worlds. Science fiction and horror movies are the two kinds of movies that I enjoy the most and that inspire me the most. On the horror side, Lovecraftian-Cronenbergian-Buddy-Mutant horror is I guess my favorite (and that was my biggest inspiration for my short film “Nasty Stuff,” as you mentioned), and on the science fiction side, I really enjoy intellectual/metaphysical sci-fi, and also psychological sci-fi, kind of like the one you got to see in “The Twilight Zone,” in the works of writers like Philip K. Dick, Rod Serling, Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury, and more, or in the early films (I said early films) of filmmakers like M. Night Shyamalan or Alejandro Amemabar."

"I’m interested in the science fiction that is more like character sci-fi, more focused on the characters and on seeing everything through their perspective, then on big-high budget special effects. So that is the sci-fi that inspired me to do “The Incident.” I love both kinds of films (sci-fi and horror). I also like it when sci-fi combines with horror on the same movie and it is definitely something I would like to work on in the near future. And yes, you are completely right: my second future film, “The Similars,” which I just finished shooting on August and is currently in post-production, has some kind of combination of weird buddy-horror sci-fi… hopefully you’ll be able to see it soon and tell me what you thought on it."

This is your second time directing a feature-length film. What did you learn while completing your first film that carried over to production on “The Similars”?

Isaac Ezban - "Both were very low budget independent feature films. Although, “The Similars” was much bigger-budget, in scale, in weeks of shooting, in crew, in structure. However, strangely enough, although we had more resources in “The Similars,” it was a much harder film for me as a director. I had to deal, for most of the movie, with eight characters at the same time, in the same place, talking, fighting, etc. Everything at the same time. Also I had the challenge of making an interesting, captivating and believable story inside one location. Those are hard challenges."

"Without revealing too much, I can tell you the film itself takes place in a chaotic atmosphere that begins on minute one and doesn’t end until the credits roll. When I wrote the screenplay, I just put everything in there. I learned a lot from my first feature film. I learned to try and plan a lot, but also be opened to the spontaneity and magic that happens in everyday life and in everyday set-life. I learned to trust my actors and my crew, to not only direct, but also listen do them a lot (I love a quote that says: “Directing is listening”), I learned to work faster, to know what I wanted faster, and to be able to communicate it faster, with the same or better results.. I was also very lucky to work with a hugely talented crew and cast. The producer Elsa Reyes and all her crew have a lot of experience."

You say that “The Similars” pays tribute to the great sci-fi films of the 1950s and ’60s. Which of those films did you draw upon for inspiration? How does it differ from other films in the genre?

Isaac Ezban - "I believe the best kind of science fiction is the one that takes places within a social/political context, because then, the fantastic element on the film is a metaphor for important real human important issues. As Stephen King once said, “Fiction is the truth inside the lie.” “The Twilight Zone” and many sci-fi stories from the ‘50s and ‘60s used to do this a lot: for example a story in which we were invaded by aliens, but it was actually a metaphor for the cold war paranoia."

"The difference with “The Similars” is that I tried to replicate this kind of concept, these kind of metaphors, but in Mexico, in the Mexican society and with the Mexican culture, something that has not been done so much in my country. That is why the story takes place on the eve of October 2, 1968, because on that exact date there was a big student revolt that became a government slaughter and it’s a red point in our history. This is simply a science fiction story, but it has that context as a back wall, it is set against that, it uses metaphors to refer to that."

"My biggest influences on that genre, well, there’s obviously “The Twilight Zone” and “The Outer Limits.” I even took specific references from some specific episodes, as I did with “Lost” for “The Incident.” Hopefully any “Twilight Zone” fan will be able to spot them in the film, also from writers like Philip K. Dick, Ray Bradbury, Michael Crichton and Stephen King, and I also got some influence in other films like “Body Snatchers” and “The Blob” as well as a big influences from Cronenberg´s earliest films and from John Carpenter´s earliest films (specially “The Thing”)."

I was also influenced by some more modern films, like Richard Kelly’s “The Box” (2009, extremely underrated and one of my favorites) or “Identity” (2002), that uses a kind of similar set up for the characters, also from the films of Spanish director Nacho Vigalondo, and some films that are not particularly sci-fi but deal with fantasy and magical realism elements, like the works of Jean-Pierre Jeunet.
-Excerpt from
(Read the whole interview here)
-Lord Battle

The Overlook Theatre materialized in a residence for a screening on  2/9/2017
*Based on the star ratings turned in by character reviewers, others viewed and got to "Dislike" or "Like" but that does not affect the rating.

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