THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
It's tough to say whether or not The Stranger is a vampire movie. It deals with things that often appear in such stories, yet the word “vampire” is never explicitly used. Of course, that's one of the curiously appealing things about the film, which is simultaneously familiar and difficult to classify. Produced and “presented” by The Green Inferno director Eli Roth, The Stranger doesn't really work as a whole, although there are certainly some elements that get your attention.
Nicolas Duran plays Peter, a 16-year-old graffiti artist with a fondness for marijuana. One day, a strange man shows up at his house. That man is Martin (Cristobal Tapia Montt). He's looking for a woman who knew Peter's mother. Martin is very freaky whenever someone potentially comes in contact with his blood – he's injured several times during the film – making it clear that he's carrying some kind of disease. Martin is intent on ridding the world of whatever he has, so he rejects medical treatment. Peter, meanwhile, is repeatedly taunted by a local bully, the son of a corrupt cop. The two main characters try to help one another, causing their fates to collide in a way that results in serious bloodshed.
The Stranger was written and directed by Guillermo Amoedo, who gives it an appropriately grim, moody atmosphere. The movie is darkly photographed to emphasize the gloomy lifestyle Peter exists within, as well as the heavy personal burden Martin carries with him. Amoedo also stages scenes of violence in a raw, unflinching, suitably grotesque manner. There's no doubt that The Stranger possesses an overall air of eeriness. The performances are quite good, too, with Montt, in particular, doing a solid job of emphasizing his character's mysterious elements. We know Martin has vampiric qualities – most notably an addiction to blood - yet the actor never falls into cliché, instead bringing out the tortured side of the man he's portraying.
There are, however, some rather significant issues that limit the movie's overall success. The plot tends to drag considerably in spots. A slower, more methodical tone is great for an atmospheric chiller, but the tone here is often a little too lethargic. It needs an occasional infusion of energy. Also maddening is that Peter makes some stupid choices that completely take you out of the story. For example, when the bully tells him to come out of his house for a beating, he does it. And when the crooked cop tells him to handcuff himself to an object, he does that, too. Rooting for a character who is so incessantly dim becomes extremely difficult.
In the end, The Stranger is one of those movies where parts of it are good, other parts are bad, and they exist within about equal measure. The film is a different spin on the vampire myth, but the sluggish pace and gaps in logic prevent it from having the impact you really want from a story of this type.
Scream Factory's Blu-Ray comes with a short film from the director, entitled The Fourth Horseman, a featurette about the Chilean filmmaking team and how they produced the movie in their country of origin, two theatrical trailers, and a still gallery.
For more information on this title, please visit the Scream Factory website.
( out of four)
The Stranger is unrated, but contains adult language and graphic bloody violence and gore. The running time is 1 hour and 93 minutes.
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