Intent on finding his missing wife Ana (Lorenza Izzo) and travelling only by night (that’s not ominous at all), the taciturn titular stranger, Martin (Christobal Tapia Montt), appears at the door of teenage graffiti artist Peter (Nicolas Duran) and his highly-strung mother Monica (Alessandra Guerzoni).

Unfortunately, he’s around sixteen years too late, Peter directing him to the local cemetery. Grieving by her grave, Martin is set upon by a gang of (not that) young thugs led by the vicious Caleb (Ariel Levy) who brutally beat and stab him. Alerting the police, Peter discovers that local police lieutenant De Luca (Luis Gnecco) is actually Caleb’s father who helps his son cover up his crimes by driving the seemingly dead Martin’s body out to the middle of nowhere, intending to dispose of him later.

But Martin’s not quite dead…..and kinda cranky.

Don’t let the words “Eli Roth Presents…” put you off Chilean writer/director Guillermo Amoedo’s The Stranger because while there’s plenty of claret getting splashed around, Amoedo’s brooding, atmospheric little slow-burner is more thoughtful than his previous collaborations with Roth (scripting Aftershock, The Green Inferno and Knock Knock), riffing on Near Dark and Let The Right One In to bring us a downbeat vampire flick that’s far from the pretty sparklefairies of Twilight.

Set in a small Canadian seaside town but filmed in Chile with an English-speaking Chilean cast a move that merely adds to the film’s queasy sense of disquiet, there’s little fresh or original about The Stranger, the script economical but anaemic, and while some of the performances outright stink, Alessandra Guerzoni in particular a level of awful reminiscent of Juliette Lewis at her worst (well, maybe not Lewis’ absolute worst, Guerzoni never does a bad Suzi Quatro impersonation with a feather in her hair) while Luis Gnecco’s badly dubbed cop seems like he wandered in from a Cinecitta Europudding, Duran, Levy and Tapia Montt acquit themselves well, Tapia Montt glowering like a beardy Jake Gyllenhaal while Levy, who played slimy eco-warrior Alejandro in The Green Inferno, is almost unrecognisable as the sociopathic Caleb while Roth’s wife and muse Izzo is understated and affecting, if mostly confined to flashbacks, as Martin’s lost love Ana.

Relentlessly glum if a little toothless, The Stranger is an admirably restrained, moody little vampire flick.

DVD Review: The Stranger
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