Rating: 4 out of 5.

I haven’t seen a film approaching the zany insanity of Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead in quite a long time, but along comes Spanish parasite-alien flick The Passenger. It somehow ends up filling that perfect slot where Drag Me To Hell once occupied as well. Goopy, nasty effects work and richly drawn characters abound. The duo of Fernando González Gómez and first-time director Raúl Cerezo clearly owe a lot to Raimi, including a Deadite-style POV that occurs later in the film. The Passenger is a definite gem that will no doubt slip through the cracks for many genre lovers—make no mistake, this is not one you will want to miss!

The occupants of a van previously used for pest control are bound for the village, each with their own signature destinations and purposes in mind. Blasco (Ramiro Blas), the driver and long-ago band member, is a “one eyed man” that seems misogynistic and strange. Along for the ride is Mariela (Cecilia Suárez), a woman on the way to visit her father; Lidia (Cristina Alcázar), a single mom; and her burn-scar addled younger daughter, Marta (Paula Gallego), headed for a new home living with Marta’s troubled father. Each character has a signature story, so well before the skin-throwing, parasite-spitting hijinks, we actually care about their wellbeing and get invested in their tales. When they hit a person in the middle of the road, the group is forced to take the woman into their van in a race to rush her to the hospital. Needless to say, things do not go as planned, as the woman may have her own sinister agenda—that pesky little alien thing called a parasite! They must team up and fight for their lives to stand even the smallest chance in the face of great evil.

The special effects are stunning here, utilizing almost entirely practical nastiness that put a smile on my face. The only place I noticed could potentially be CGI is in some of the quick-bodied movements of an infected host. It could just as easily be a simple sped-up clip, but it remains effective regardless. The sly quickness of these bastards is on full display, and they are a mean sort of people. A relentless energy is on display from the second we first meet these parasites all the way through to the shocking ending. If bloody mayhem is what you seek, look no further than The Passenger

Marta and Blasco emerge as my two favorites in the film, and I was rooting for their survival. Ultimately feeling like a near-perfect combination of The Faculty meets Shaun of the Dead, The Passenger frolics from one thrilling moment to the next with ease. Despite having one primary setting, there is never a single dull moment. The gamble may be big, but the payoff is even bigger: The Passenger is one seriously great indie horror flick.

The Passenger screened at the 2022 Seattle International Film Festival.

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