The Passenger Is Hollow Horror Fun

I’m always on the lookout for good new monster movies, so when I first saw the trailer for The Passenger back in May, I was instantly hooked. While it didn’t tell us much about the film’s plot, it featured a whole bunch of really cool horror imagery, so I immediately put this movie on my to-watch list (yes, I keep an actual list). Sure, I had no idea what to expect apart from the awesome visuals, but I couldn’t wait to find out. And now, after almost three months, that wait is finally over.

The Passenger was directed by Raúl Cerezo and Fernando González Gómez, and it stars Ramiro Blas, Cecilia Suárez, Paula Gallego, Cristina Alcázar, and Yao Yao. It’s about a group of strangers who share a ride in a van together, and at first, everything goes according to plan. But that all changes when the driver hits a pedestrian. He initially just drives away to avoid getting in trouble, but after a bit of goading, he eventually goes back to check up on the person, and the group decides to take her to a hospital. However, they soon learn that there’s way more to this woman than meets the eye.

That sounds like a great setup for a monster movie, but unfortunately, The Passenger lost me in that exact part of the story—the setup. While I wouldn’t exactly call this film a slow burn, it does take a while to get going. For about the first 30 minutes or so it’s basically just four people in a van talking, and even though that’s not necessarily a bad thing, this movie really mishandles its first act.

For starters, this part of the film is just really boring. I wasn’t invested in any of the characters, so I felt like I was stuck in the van with them as they chatted away about things I didn’t care about. To be fair though, I didn’t actually hate all of them. The passengers were decent enough that I probably wouldn’t have minded them too much if they were the only characters in the film, but I really didn’t like the driver.

Four people in a van

He’s the only man in the group, and he says some pretty inappropriate things to the women. In particular, one of the passengers is a teenager who sits in the front with him, and the way he talks to her just comes across as a bit too pervy for my tastes. He doesn’t say too much that’s blatantly inappropriate, but his entire tone and all his mannerisms just feel dirty. It made me really hate him, and that in turn cast a dark shadow over the entire story that I simply couldn’t get over.

That being said, The Passenger does get a lot better in the second act. At about the half-hour mark, the van hits the pedestrian, the group takes her in and decides to bring her to the hospital, and the horror goes from zero to sixty in the blink of an eye. The seemingly injured woman turns out to be a monster, and she goes to town on her unsuspecting victims almost immediately.

When that happened, my feelings toward this movie began to change a bit. For example, the driver stopped being such a jerk, so while I still didn’t like him, I didn’t hate him nearly as much as I did before. But most importantly, I found myself enjoying the horror fairly quickly. This monster is pretty cool, and while I never found the film genuinely scary, it has its fair share of eerie moments that any genre fan is sure to appreciate. On top of that, it also features some really good gore effects, so from a purely visual perspective, it was actually quite good.

However, that wasn’t enough to outweigh everything The Passenger did wrong in the first act. See, as good as the horror was, it felt rather hollow. Pretty much everything about this monster, from its look to the way it moves and sounds, has been done before in some other movie or TV show, so it has a very “been there, done that” kind of feel to it. It has shades of A Nightmare on Elm Street, Jason Goes to Hell, the TV show The Strain, and a whole host of other classic (and sometimes not so classic) titles.

a girl struggling on the ground

Now, to be fair, it’s tough to do anything original in the horror genre these days. Just about everything that can be done has already been done in some way, so the vast majority of modern horror films simply rearrange old pieces and put their own unique spins on them. And in that sense, I can’t fault The Passenger for being unoriginal.

But my problem isn’t simply that it’s all been done before. My problem is that the film is unoriginal and that I didn’t like the characters. That combination is what ultimately killed the movie for me, so even though I enjoyed the horror at the moment—as I said—it just felt really hollow. It didn’t stick with me, and to be honest, I feel like I’m already beginning to forget it even though I just finished watching it about a half-hour ago.

So at the end of the day, I’m sad to say that I can’t quite recommend The Passenger. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a terrible film, and it’s far from a waste of time, but I don’t think you should go out of your way to see it. Sure, if you happen to catch it for one reason or another, you’ll probably enjoy it enough while it’s on, but if you want any sort of lasting impact, you’re better off watching something else.

The Passenger debuted in limited theaters on June 3, and it was scheduled to hit VOD on June 28. However, when I watched it, I was only able to find it on VUDU, and while that’ll probably change soon, it’s still the only place where I know it’s available as of this writing.

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Written by JP Nunez

JP Nunez is a lifelong horror fan. From a very early age, he learned to love monsters, ghosts, and all things spooky, and it's still his favorite genre today.

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