31 Days of Hallowe’en, Day 26: The Stranger (2014)

the stranger 2014 chileHow does a beautifully-shot film with an intriguing premise serve up such a godawful final product? I truly wanted to like this one; from the beginning it seemed moody and stylised but not overwhelmingly so, and the lead character, a brooding vampire named Martin (Cristobal Tapia Montt) cut a mysterious, tragic figure as the titular stranger in a small town looking for his wife.

the stranger 2014 chile

Soon after, we’re subjected to a string of very, very bad acting and, even worse, bad dubbing – though only for some of the principal cast. The baffling decision to set the movie in Canada when it was clearly not (filmed in Chile with Chilean actors and crew) reminds me of a crappy little Radha Mitchell/Josh Lucas thriller called When Strangers Appear (filmed in Australia; trying to be set in the US). Why not go with its Chilean setting? It’s not like the movie would have been less marketable, (especially given that it was produced by Eli Roth); we’re in an age in which Spanish-speaking movies like [REC] and Pan’s Labyrinth are critically-acclaimed audience favourites in their own right. The bad voice dubbing is the icing on the cake – if many of the main cast cannot emote in a foreign language that’s been forced on them, it makes the final result look cheap and an embarrassing testament to how much they struggled to un-Spanish it.

the stranger 2014 chile

At least the dubbing isn’t the only thing that ruins this movie. Aside from Martin and the young boy he meets, Peter (Nicolás Durán) (honestly, with these white American names…), every character is a painful cliché; the perma-worried, clingy mother, the corrupt panto cop, the local bleach-blonde bully flanked by his subordinate thugs…and they all amount to nothing. There’s only a whisper of a real story being told, and it’s structured in such an unsuspenseful way that it becomes horrifically boring. When the movie finally ends, it’s a bit of a bittersweet relief, but it could have been so much better. The sweeping music during the final scenes appears to have accidentally stumbled in from a much more impactful film. I’d honestly forgotten I’d even seen it until I remembered I had to do the write-up for it. Let’s hope Montt, the single decent actor in this, and Chechu Graf, the cinematographer, run away and make a better movie together.

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