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    The Stranger (2015): Movie Review

    “A gripping unconventional horror story.”

    Just when we thought that we have seen all sorts of vampire movies, producer Eli Roth and director Guillermo Amoedo give us their unusual but interesting take of the genre. Steering clear of the overused bloodsucking clich├ęs, The Stranger offers a less violent retelling of a vampire story to give way to the subtler emotional undercurrents behind the creatures.

    Set in an unnamed Northern American suburb, the movie opens with Martin (Cristobal Tapia Mont), a mysterious and fatigued loner, showing up late at the home of sixteen-year-old Peter (Nicolas Duran) and his mother Monica (Alessandra Guerzoni). Martin is seeking for his ex-wife Ana (Lorenza Izzo) but unfortunately, she had already died. Peter kindly takes him to the local cemetery to see her grave.

    Distraught, Martin later rests on a bench by the park but a gang of thugs lead by Caleb (Ariel Levy) begin to pick on him. Eventually, Martin is brutally beaten and stabbed. Peter has seen everything and runs to report to the police. However, police lieutenant De Luca (Luis Gnecco), who happens to be Caleb’s father, immediately covers up the crime.

    After finding out that Martin is still alive, Peter secretly takes his body home. Yet, Martin refuses to be helped, saying that his blood is infected and never to be touched. Soon, a violent chain of events befall on the sleepy town…. Caleb is burned while his two mates are bled to death. Peter suffers the same fate as Caleb but in the hands of the enraged lieutenant De Luca. But it is not yet over as they will yet uncover the person behind Martin and the powers in his blood. 

    The Stranger is basically a vampire movie, though the v word is never mentioned in the whole film. But with some characters feeding on blood and being burned easily by daylight, we know that they are vampires. Unlike similar films, The Stranger gives more emphasis on the emotional struggles than the physical ones. The characters have slowly but precisely developed, and both good and bad guys show human emotions. Primarily driven by love for the people they care about, they feel so real and sympathetic. Martin is the peace-lover, possibly because of the painful memories of his ex-wife Ana as seen in the flashbacks. While Peter is the devoted and obedient child, Caleb is the typical spoiled brat bully. Both Monica and De Luca are overprotective and caring parents whose love for their children will cost everything.

    However, the film has such a sluggish pacing and somber tone. It is quite dark and drab in many instances. They may have been deliberate in order to provide the appropriate mood for the story. Surprisingly, this works as the movie is very tense and suspenseful throughout. Though predictable, the mysteries just keep unfolding and the excitement builds up. We may have seen them somewhere but some imageries in the film remain haunting and moving such as the bloodied dead innocent girl and teary-eyed infected Peter enclosed in his scarp and driving a stolen car under the sun. 

    The Stranger also cast some unfamiliar faces, Chilean actors particularly. There are some issues in dialogue delivery as there is obvious difficulty in speaking English. However, language problem did not hinder the actors from committing to their roles and giving heartfelt performances. Guerzoni and Duran are especially superb. They give heart-warming chemistry as mother and child and their moments together are affecting. Gnecco is also powerful as the domineering patriarch, yet willing to sacrifice himself for his child. Though there is nothing much to work on with his meek character, Mont manages to give a searing and moving performance.

    Despite its forgettable and boring title, The Stranger is a unique and refreshing vampire story as it explores more the emotional conflicts of the characters. It is a slow burner but the cinematography and mood create an edgy and gripping effect. The Chilean actors are passable but they might have delivered stronger performance if the movie is told in their native tongue.


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