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John’s Horror Corner: La Pasajera (2021; aka The Passenger), a surprisingly heartfelt Spanish horror about slimy, infectious, alien “zombies.”

September 6, 2022

MY CALL:  Very gross, and equally sincere. From character dialogue and development to goopy slimy monster tongues, this film was satisfying and fun. The story is “just another infectious zombie” deal, but it has a lot of warmth behind its mucousy goop.  MORE MOVIES LIKE La Pasajera:  This would be a good double-feature with DashCam (2021). If you seek more Spanish horror, I’d recommend The Platform (2019; aka El Hoyo), Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) and [REC] 1-3 (2007-2012).

The opening scene and ensuing scoring of the opening credits smack of the kind of tone enjoyed in [REC] 3: Genesis (2012), the most feisty and cheeky of the [REC] franchise. A minivan rideshare driver in Spain and not blessed in social grace, Carlos Blasco (Ramiro Blas; [REC] 4: Apocalypse) tends to easily find tension with his female passengers—mostly deliberately. Marta (Paula Gallego; The Elderly), her mother Lidia (Cristina Alcázar), and a Mexican tourist Mariela (Cecilia Suárez) impatiently endure Blasco’s comically misogynist banter until they come across what appears to be a small, crashed spaceship and a slimy pulsating organism at the side of the road. Just farther up the remote road they hit a woman in the dark… who turns out to be some sort of infectious demonic zombie thing. Then, well, there’ll be more.

One infected woman is like a gnarly, diseased, crawler from The Descent (2005) covered in boils and lesions; whereas another has a Frankensteinian face with a rather normal body. But all of them love their thick, lip-dangling, mucousy drool! It’s delightfully gross.

This lower budget Sci-Horror enjoys in its splattergore on the few occasions it flexes as such. Slimy gooey regurgitated slime seems to infect victims akin to The Hidden (1987); the flesh of a melted face is torn off and thrown like macabre soggy fatty chicken skin; and long mutant tongue assaults abound. We never learn the origin or reason for anything going on here, and I don’t really mind. It doesn’t really seem important. Despite its zaniness, what moves this story along is its relationships.

Complemented by solid writers and actors, directors Fernando González Gómez (The Elderly, Zombie World 2) and Raúl Cerezo (The Elderly) introduce us to characters whose sympathy is earned through actions, and whose idiosyncrasies and insecurities are credibly explored. Their banter tells us a lot about them in an often enjoyable, if not sincere manner. We see a boorish man find compassion in his time of dread as a standoffish teen fearful of abandonment learns to trust an adult who won’t leave her; the last man she’d expect, in fact.

So from character dialogue and development to goopy slimy monster tongues, this film was very satisfying and fun. Now I’m especially interested in seeing The Elderly (2022), our directorial duo’s most recent film.

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