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Stranger (2014), The
I think I've asked this before, but I'll do it again. Can we be done with vampire movies? After a decade of Twilight and recent independent efforts like Byzantium and Only Lovers Left Alive, the market is saturated with blood and fangs. There are also the unfortunate cases of Dracula Untold and Vampire Academy. There has been one pretty good vampire movie of late. It hails from Iran and it is called A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. OK, there have been two; What We Do in the Shadows is damn funny, so I'll give it a pass, too. The Stranger, strangely presented by Eli Roth, is dull and unoriginal, and nowhere near as artistic and profound as it wants to be. A mysterious man shows up in a rundown town and zzzzzzzz. I am being a jerk, but the movie drags and drags for 93 hardly terrifying minutes. Give it a rest with the undead, folks.
Martin (Cristobal Tapia Montt), the crusty gentleman who arrives in town intent on killing his wife, Ana (Lorenza Izzo), suffers from a disease that causes blood lust. Ana also has it - or had it before she died years earlier. Before he can commit suicide to end the unfortunate affliction for good, Martin is accosted by some hooligans, including Caleb (Ariel Levy), the son of a local, corrupt cop (Luis Gnecco). This unprovoked attack gives Martin reason to stay alive, and he goes about his revenge business at a slow, dour pace.
Let the Right One In showed us that vampire movies can be thoughtful and deep. The Stranger is just uneventful. I did not care about a single character, including our "protagonist." Vampirism as a disease? Seen it before. Director Guillermo Amoedo Schultze, who co-wrote Aftershock and The Green Inferno with Roth, misunderstands the purpose of dramatic pacing and creates a glacial bore. This dialogue-light, cloudy day film plods along for an hour and change before finally picking up steam near the climax. By then I was fighting sleep.
There are a couple of moments that work, mainly the intense sequences with Deputy Douche and his son. Montt seems to play Martin in a Klonopin haze, and, if he was going for detached and insipid, he succeeds. The cinematography from Chechu Graf is rather impressive at times, and Amoedo lenses a few attractive shots. Ultimately, there is too little story here, and the film's pulse is nonexistent. I challenge any filmmaker who wants to shoot a vampire story to rethink their plans. Unless you are absolutely sure that you have something unique and exciting to explore, please find some other mythical creature to exploit. Dracula has suffered enough.
The 2.40:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image is expectedly polished, with sharp, clear details and strong resolution. The dull colors are nicely saturated, and black levels are mostly good. There is some black crush and a bit of softness here and there, but I noticed only minor motion blur and no digital scrubbing.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is sufficiently immersive, and the subtle sound design is one of the film's strongest assets. Dialogue is crisp and clean, and both ambient and action effects make good use of the surrounds. The subwoofer enhances a car wreck and some action beats, and the dialogue is never overpowered by these effects. A 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is also included, as are English and Spanish subtitles.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This single-disc release is packed in a standard case with reversible artwork, and a slipcover wraps the case. Extras include The Fourth Horseman (10:45/HD), a short film that explores the pestilence connection to the film's deadly disease, and Welcome to Chilewood (6:24/HD), about Roth and his desire to make films in Chile. You also get the U.S. Trailer (1:41/HD), the Chilean Trailer (2:10/HD) and a Photo Gallery (3:29/HD).
I hate to rag on ambitious, independent filmmaking, but the Eli Roth-produced The Stranger is a dreary, unnecessary vampire tale with a plodding narrative and dull characters. Neither scary nor dramatically stimulating, The Stranger commits the cardinal sin of filmmaking: It bores. Skip It.
William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.