The Stranger, 2014.
Written and directed by Guillermo Amoedo.
Starring Cristobal Tapia Montt, Nicolás Durán, Luis Gnecco, Ariel Levy, Alessandra Guerzoni and Lorenza Izzo.
A drifter causes chaos for a young man and his mother when he arrives in their small town looking for an old flame, leaving a trail of blood in his wake.
If you were to watch The Stranger without knowing all that much about it, it would be easy to wonder why the film – a cheap slice of Canadian horror tat made by a Chilean – is even troubling these shores at all. However, under its full title Eli Roth Presents The Stranger, it becomes clear that the clout of its producer has given it a free travel pass. It’s certainly not a film that made it across the Atlantic on the basis of quality.
We are first introduced to a mysterious drifter (Cristobal Tapia Montt), who crosses paths with graffiti artist Peter (Nicolás Durán) when he asks about the whereabouts of old flame Ana (Lorenza Izzo). Later that night, Peter witnesses the drifter being brutally stabbed by Caleb (Ariel Levy) and his gang of thugs. He subsequently follows Caleb as his crime is covered up by police lieutenant dad De Luca (Luis Gnecco). When Peter recovers the very much alive drifter from his shallow grave, he sets into motion a series of brutal events that threaten his doting mother (Alessandra Guerzoni).
The Stranger can charitably be described as a rather muddled film. It’s one that seems unsure of its central ethos, only really expending effort on employing the dialogue gymnastics necessary to avoid the word “vampire”. One moment, it’s gory exploitation cinema in the mould of Roth’s Hostel movies and the next it’s reaching lifelessly for the kind of soulful musing of Tomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One In. It desperately wants to be a sophisticated film, but its exploitation blood runs far too strongly through its veins, leaving it caught between two stalls.
Director Guillermo Amoedo manages to conjure up some impressive visuals in The Stranger, despite the evident budgetary constraints of the film. The lighting suffers and the post-synched dialogue is all over the place, but the gore is delightfully gruesome. The performers, though, are an issue. Despite their solid performances, especially from youngster Nicolás Durán, it seems that some of the direction got lost in translation along with the dialogue. For reasons best known to Amoedo, the film eschews the native Spanish language of many of its actors and is instead made in English. There’s a definite second language feel to the film, which leaves it rather awkward.
More of a problem, though, is the pace of The Stranger. At just over 90 minutes, it isn’t a long film, but the story unfolds at a glacial pace and with little in the way of excitement. It’s not so much a slow burn narrative as a cooker without a supply of gas. Even once the machinations of the plot kick in, there’s little increase in momentum and the usual limp trudge of storyline is resumed. There is a nominal twist to proceedings, but it’s telegraphed so early that it barely even registers as a reveal.
It’s clear that Amoedo has filmmaking talent, but The Stranger is not a strong showcase for his abilities. This is a horror film without anything in the way of scares and desperately in need of some sort of Roth-esque levity.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Tom Beasley – Follow me on Twitter for movies, wrestling and jokes about David Cameron.