'The Stranger' Movie Review

The Stranger poster
© IFC Midnight

Eli Roth has seemingly found a home in Chile, producing several genre films there over the past few years, from to the upcoming Knock Knock and . His latest from that side of the globe is , which isn't getting the buzz of either Green Inferno or Knock Knock, but it might end up being the best of the bunch.

The Plot

A disheveled stranger (Cristobal Tapia Montt) arrives in a small Canadian town searching for a woman named Ana.

When he knocks at a house asking for her, a teenage boy named Peter (Nicolás Durán) tells him she died years ago. Despondent about not being able to reunite with his lost love, the stranger puts up little resistance when he's attacked by a group of neighborhood punks led by Caleb (Ariel Levy). Local policeman Lieutenant De Luca (Luis Gnecco) happens upon the scene, but it turns out he's Caleb's father, and rather than help the nearly dead victim, he makes plans to bury him.

Peter secretly intervenes, however, and whisks the stranger away, triggering a cycle of violent retribution as police and criminal alike try to cover up their crimes. The stranger, though, has a secret of his own. He's a vampire, and despite a suicidal tendency, he can't stand idly by as an innocent boy is targeted for revenge.

The End Result

With its tale of a human boy befriending a vampire who's targeted by corrupt small-town police, The Stranger feels a bit like First Blood meets .

It's certainly not as high-octane as First Blood, so a smaller, less action-y revenge flick like might be a more apt comparison, but in either case, it's gritty, earnest entertainment.

It's decidedly character-driven but thankfully doesn't spend too much time wallowing in the "gloomy vampire" cliché.

The surrounding characters have their own heft, particularly Lt. Deluca, who, despite his deep flaws, isn't a black-and-white villain; he's a caring father who only wants to look after his out-of-control son. Throughout the story, on multiple levels, there's an emotional core about love and loss, family and sacrifice, violence and redemption.

Vampire fans should note, though, that The Stranger isn't heavy into traditional lore. There's no flying, shapeshifting, crosses, garlic, super strength or even fangs. It's all pretty raw, basic and relatively "realistic" as far as cinematic vampires go. The acting feels unpolished -- likely due to English not being the first language of most of the cast -- but that strangely helps cement the film's gritty realism.

Ultimately, I would've preferred an ending that built more on the relationship between Peter and the stranger that earned such good will throughout the movie, but The Stranger is still a powerful tale, a sort of modern-day western with a vampire twist.

The Skinny

  • Acting: C (A bit stiff and amateurish due to language constraints.)
  • Direction: B- (Delivers dramatic thrills and human drama.)
  • Script: B- (Emotional and efficient, not delving into extraneous background information that would slow down the plot.)
  • Gore/Effects: B- (Good bloody makeup effects.)
  • Overall: B- (A slow burning but engrossing and gritty modern take on vampire lore.)

The Stranger is directed by Guillermo Amoedo and is not rated by the MPAA. Release date: June 12, 2015 (in theaters/on demand).