Eli Roth helps another of his frequent collaborators with their own directorial effort – a horror film that avoids the “V” word…
Year of release: 2014
Director: Guillermo Amoedo
Starring: Cristobal Tapia Montt, Lorenza Izzo, Luis Gnecco, Ariel Levy, Nicolás Durán
DVD release: 16 November – order it here
Eli Roth must be a busy man, he seems to either be producing or presenting every other horror film these days. Perhaps he’s actually a franchisable brand now. Make your own Eli Roth-style film and get a free presented-by tagline for your DVD release.
The latest opus to bear his name as producer is The Stranger, written and directed by Guillermo Amoedo and shot on location in Chile. This is Amoedo’s second time at the helm as a feature director; his writing credits, however, are more extensive, having penned Green Inferno and Knock Knock, both of which Roth directed.
Cristobal Tapia Montt plays the titular Stranger, suitably armed with a beard and a big coat.
We find out he is infected with a strange and highly infectious blood disease; the kind that makes him averse to light, want to drink blood and generally a bit testy. The V word is never mentioned, but the same rules generally apply.
He arrives in town under cover of darkness, in search of his lost love. He finds her buried in the local cemetery, and sets about brooding. As it turns out, she’s left more than her body in town for him to find.
He falls foul of the local gang who interrupt his brooding to find out he has something of a death wish. Their fun is interrupted by Nicolás Durán, a local graffiti artist, who turns to the police for help. Unfortunately the gang’s leader just happens to be the local police lieutenant’s son.
What follows is a fairly predictable escalation of tit for tat violence. The Stranger stumbles from place to place getting his ass kicked. People try to help him. He swears at them. He eats a small animal which cures all his ills. He helps the people he swore at when they get beaten up. Rinse, repeat. Even though this is ostensibly a vampire film, most of the horror here is straightforward brutality. Lorena Molina, credited with prosthetics and SFX makeup, isn’t taxed much apart from a couple of burn victims.
Acting is a bit hit and miss, Cristobal Montt and Nicolás Durán as his son turn in a decent performance but elsewhere things get a bit ropey. Indeed some of the dialogue is reminiscent of a Spaghetti Western, sounding like it was either re-recorded or overdubbed with different actors. Cinematography is not so bad you’d notice, but not so good you’d notice either.
The flashback sequences offer a little variation, filling in some backstory for the Stranger and his lady. They also hint at an overarching story involving The Infected. Even though there are references to their existence throughout the film, a brand, some graffiti, a piece of jewellery, it’s never quite tied together.
It’s not all bad though. Montt carries an air of mystery as The Stranger, and has the growl down to a fine art. You’re just starting to warm to Durán by the end of the film even though he’s a crack smoking graffiti artist. Ariel Levy as gang leader Caleb takes a more old fashioned approach to playing the bad guy than his father, Luis Gnecco. The police lieutenant almost seems redeemable at points (until he sets fire to someone’s face, there isn’t much coming back from that).
It manages to stay away from most vampire (and even horror) tropes too, there’s no just-for-the-sake-of-it love interest, and you’re never quite sure who the bad guy really is. It certainly looks the part too, budget restrictions aside. Perhaps the town is virtually uninhabited because of a previous Infected outbreak?
It’s always good to see new talent in a genre. Let’s hope Guillermo Amoedo can take his approach to cliché-free genre storytelling and come up with something a little more coherent next time. Perhaps one day he’ll even have his own franchise.
Reviewed by Arthur Scott