In recent years, Eli Roth has put a lot of effort into building up the genre film business in Chile and that has led to him producing efforts like Aftershock. That film initiated a collaboration between Roth and Guillermo Amoedo, who has gone on to co-wrote Roth’s two latest directorial vehicles, The Green Inferno and Knock Knock. Somewhere in that maelstrom of activity, Roth and Amoedo also found time to produce Amoedo’s feature directing debut, The Stranger. The result is a kind of new-wave take on vampirism that mixes interesting ideas with questionable execution.
The titular character of The Stranger is a drifter (Cristobal Tapio Montt) who wanders into a small town in Canada – it’s actually Chile not-too-convincingly subbing for Canada. He is looking for a woman (Lorenza Izzo) that we discover is dead and flashbacks reveal that vampirism is what doomed their relationship. In the process, he gets mixed up with local kid Peter (Nicolas Duran) and runs afoul of psycho Caleb (Ariel Levy) and his protective, corrupt police chief father (Luis Gnecco). Bloodshed ensues as the Stranger reluctantly steps in to protect Peter and finds himself having to put down villains both human and supernatural.
The premise for The Stranger is solid enough and there are moments where it evokes the combination of supernatural horror and spaghetti western moodiness that is going for. Unfortunately, it’s also got a lot of problems. The first and biggest is Amoedo’s script, which has the feeling of a first draft that hasn’t been thought out in detail. The rules of its version of vampirism are never clear and the Stranger is made to be so edgy and self-absorbed that he is more likely to alienate the audience. He’s also distractingly passive for a protagonist: he’s constantly being overpowered, wanders around aimlessly and regularly arrives too late to stop the human characters from suffering.
Similar problems are felt in Amoedo’s direction: he creates a decent level of atmosphere but shows little flair in choreographing the film’s action and horror sequences. Frequently, moments that could have been memorable setpieces are either rushed through or left off-camera entirely. Most of the performances are amateurish, with most of the actors either overemoting unconvincingly or being so bland they blend into the wallpaper: exceptions are the intriguingly creepy Levy and the naturalistic and sympathetic Duran. The fact that some actors are poorly dubbed adds another layer of disconnect to the generally weak level of acting.
In short, The Stranger is ultimately a forgettable addition to the vampire subgenre, being both too perfunctory in how it handles horror and too amateurish in its technique to connect with the viewer on a memorable level.
Blu-Ray Notes: Scream Factory just released this title on blu-ray as part of their partnership with IFC Midnight. The transfer does well by the moody, frequently nocturnal cinematography, giving it a depth and sharpness, and the 5.1 lossless stereo mix works nicely, particularly in its use of music.
There’s also a little package of extras included on this disc. “The Fourth Horseman” is an 11-minute short film by Amoedo that was obviously a pilot project for the concept behind The Stranger: in fact, all its scenes are used in edited form as flashbacks in the finished feature. “Welcome To Chilewood” is a lighthearted 6 minute EPK that explains how Roth became interested in backing Chilean filmmakers on projects like The Stranger.
Elsewhere, there are two trailers: one for the English-speaking markets and one for the Chilean market (in English, with subtitles). There are interesting differences between the two, with the Chilean trailer featuring a heftier dose of gruesome imagery. The final inclusion is an animated photo gallery that runs about 3 1/2 minutes, offering a variety of stills and poster designs.