Year Released : 2014
Director : Guillermo Amoedo
Cast : Cristobal Tapia Montt, Nicolas Duran, Lorenzza Izzo, Luis Gnecco, Alessandra Guerzoni and Aaron Burns
There aren’t many films that peak my interest that much at the first opportunity. Usually it takes several watches of a trailer to get excited about a film, and those who have been reading this site for a while will know that Nightcrawler, my favourite film of 2014, held no interest for me until I went to see it before watching another film.
Despite it being a relatively unique event for me, The Stranger peaked my interest immensely at the first chance of asking and it looked like the type of film that I normally love. Now, to avoid spoiling it for myself, I have tried to avoid looking at the IMDB score, reviews and even most of the storyline.
The trailer made it look similar in terms of look and feel to the very first film I reviewed for this site, the excellent Exit Humanity, so if it is even remotely anything like that then I will no doubt end up liking up, but there were two words that filed me with dread, Eli Roth.
I have previously reviewed another horror film that involved Roth within it’s creation, the abysmal “Clown”, so I sincerely hope it’s not like that.
Martin (Montt) turns up to a house searching for his estranged wife. He learns from Peter (Duran), a young man at the house, that she died several years ago and mourns for several hours. Whilst minding still mourning, he is approached by three locals and they end up physically assaulting him, with the leader Caleb (Levy) stabbing him. Peter saves him at the last second and takes him home to recover. Whilst trying to dress his wounds, the man violently warns Peter and his mother to not touch his blood.
Caleb turns his attentions to Peter but just before he is about to kill him, Martin viciously attacks him. In revenge, Caleb’s father sets fire to half of Peter’s body. Blaming Martin for what has happened, it is revealed that Martin’s wife was a vampire like creature and she willingly killed herself after the birth of her sun by watching the sunrise. Martin tries to perform a healing ritual on Peter but his mother stops it soon after it begins, however, when changing the dressings at the hospital the following morning, all of the burns have turned to minor scratches.
Upon discovering that Peter has miraculously healed, Caleb’s father hunts down Martin to try and cure his son. He succeeds in finding him and draws blood, but when it is applied to Caleb, it doesn’t cure him and instead turns him into a vampire like creature.
Now Peter and Martin must find and kill Caleb once and for all.
So, like Exit Humanity?
No, not in the slightest. Obviously ignoring the different settings in time, area of the world, genre and various other factors, comparing it to Exit Humanity definitely wouldn’t be right.
Let’s start with the positives.
Firstly, the film is a constant build and it never feels like it’s going too fast or too slow. The pacing is just about right to keep you interested without feeling like you’re going at 100mph. The film starts off relatively quickly compared to the rest of the film but it does well in establishing the story you’re about to watch and deserved more than what was about to follow.
Sticking to the positives, the sound editing is astounding and the soundtrack sets the mood excellently. The film feels like a very open world style film, that despite the small town setting and limited characters within the film. The sound makes everything feel more real and visceral, especially once Caleb turns into a vampire himself. Every broken bone is wonderfully laudable, as is every tooth piercing the skin of the victim, it just works so well.
I also love that they have used a different filming location that seemingly the rest of cinema. The film, despite being set in Canada, was filmed in Chile and it is nice to see somewhere that I can’t recall ever seeing in cinema before. I’m not going to lie, I am not entirely sure why they chose to film a movie in Chile when it is set in Canada, but either way it’s a refreshing change and one that I would love to see more often in film.
In recent years some films have explored relatively unused locations, with “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” being particularly relevant in this situation, filming in Iceland and Greenland, two locations which are two locations that you don’t see often in films and that’s what I love about new locations being used. You get to see areas of the world you’re not used to seeing and I will always praise a film for trying something relatively new.
So onto the negatives and I start with what will seem a very familiar complaint from me for longer term readers, the camera work. Now, this film chooses to use steady cameras, shoulder mounted cameras and shaky-cam, and that is not a recipe for success.
One minute the image is nice and stable, with beautifully panning images, and the next they’re in a car and because the cameraman (or woman) is bouncing up and down with the car, and can’t really focus on the characters or what you’re saying.
Arguably the film’s biggest weakness is it’s characters as none of them are particularly engaging or relatable. Whilst none of the characters are awful, none are particularly noteworthy either and you’re never truly behind the protagonists, or indeed against the antagonists. I would go as far as saying that the film doesn’t even really have a main antagonist, it has two antagonists (Caleb and his dad) but neither are particularly above or below the other. Whilst that doesn’t sound too bad, let’s put it this way, in any other film neither character would be nothing more than a secondary antagonist.
You could argue that Caleb is the main antagonist due to the fact that he is the one that they end up fighting at the end of the film, but even then it means nothing because Caleb isn’t really built as a worthy antagonist. Sure, he’s a dick, but it takes more than being a dick to be a believable bad guy and, with no disrespect to the actor because it’s not his fault, it fails miserably. It’s not helped by him disappearing for more than half of the movie. For at least 50 minutes of the 90 minute run time, Caleb is just lying in a hospital bed and doesn’t develop.
The Stranger starts well, looking and sounding fantastic, but the visuals and acoustics soon stop hiding that there isn’t really a lot of substance in the 90 minute films. The characters are woefully underdeveloped and the main antagonist is nowhere to be seen for almost 2/3 of the movie.
Whilst not as bad as a lot of other films I have seen, I have virtually no desire to watch it again and I can’t really think of anything that would lead me to suggest it’s something that you should have a desire to watch.
I can’t really recommend this film at all.