Stalker - FrightFest World Premiere Review
Director: Steve Johnson
Starring: Sophie Skelton, Stuart Brennan, Bret Hart
Written by: Chris Watt
Produced by: Gareth Wiley
Cinematography by: Simon Stolland
When young actress Rose Hepburn is stuck in an elevator with a camera operator who is seemingly obsessed with her, some harsh truths and actions starts unfolding.
In the history of cinema, how many films have been made that take place primarily in an elevator? There's actually probably more than you think. Steve Johnson's 'Stalker' is another in a long line of one-location horror thrillers that brings it back to basics and lets the actors do all the work by creating tension through slow, unravelling dialogue. Sadly it doesn't quite work and left me feeling a bit dissatisfied.
It's difficult to enjoy the climax of a film when you guess the "twist" in the opening few minutes. That's mostly down to my own detrimental need to deduce the ending, as most writers do, and I absolutely hold my hands up and accept that. However the nature of how the film begins almost already leads us in this very direction which is the exact opposite of what the film should do.
The opening scene drops some facts about victims of stalkers; "1 in 6 women will be stalked in their lifetime" and then "1 in 19 men will be stalked in their lifetime" and then we're treated to some lovely shots out in the pouring rain as a storm advances over the hotel in which we're about to stay in for the next 90 minutes. A promising young actor called Rose Hepburn enters an old, deserted hotel as she chats on her mobile phone. We're made aware that she has to learn lots of pages of dialogue and that she's ready for a very long shower after the long day she's had.
It seems like she's the only living being in the hotel but of course she isn't. A shadowy figure lingers in the background. As she approaches the reception her calls for assistance are in vain. It's late and there's no staff to be found. When she enters the lobby again there's a man sitting in silence, looking ominous. He's wearing huge headphones and a baseball cap. He's up to something.
Rose enters the elevator that isn't out of order and just as the doors are about to close a hand desperately squeezes in and reopens the doors. The hand belongs to Daniel Reed, the fella who was hanging out int he lobby. There's nothing subtle about his shifty eyes and nervous demeanour. As the elevator ascends there is a sudden jolt and the elevator stops in its tracks. Rose and Daniel must find a way to get out of the elevator before the unthinkable happens.
'Stalker' isn't a bad film at all. It's actually well written considering the fairly basic nature of the premise and the challenging single location set up. It feels like it may have been based on a short film and would probably work well as a stage play. One thing that lets it down is just how on the nose the character of Daniel is. He is clearly presented as Rose's stalker but Stuart Brennan's portrayal of the character is a bit clichéd. It feels like Daniel might be on the spectrum although it's never expressly confirmed and if that is the case it also feels a bit problematic. Even with the limited use of a video tape which helps to set up part of the story to us, the film does struggle a bit to fill out its runtime. And because it's set in such a tiny one location set the shots are naturally extremely repetitive so it doesn't really offer anything super interesting to look at.
Both Sophie Sexton and Stuart Brennan do try their best to keep the conversation intriguing as the plot unfolds and they really up their game in the finale when the true nature of what's happening reveals itself. No spoilers but as a red blooded man it was tough to watch.
- Gavin Logan
'Stalker' received its World Premiere at FrightFest 2022 on August 28th. Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment presents 'Stalker' on DVD and Digital from 10th October