The Stranger: Creepy, Atmospheric Movie Review

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A Brief History

On August 19, 2020, we got the opportunity to screen The Stranger, a nifty movie cobbled together from a series of short segments that originally appeared on Quibi, a short form streaming service.  If you are into the pulse pounding, high tension drama of life, death, murder and intrigue, this series/film is for you!

Digging Deeper

The series consisted of 13 episodes, each about 9 or 10 minutes long, with each episode representing an hour in a day from hell for a young Kansas woman working as a ride share driver in Los Angeles.  Starting at 7 pm and ending at 7 am, the film follows the series format by labeling each segment with the appropriate hour.  Our heroine picks up a “stranger” at a mansion, and soon finds out the guy is not a regular fare, but a psychopathic murderer!  Over the course of the next 12 hours the young woman is stalked, hunted, framed and harassed by this psycho who seems to always be a step ahead of her and the authorities.  Not surprisingly in today’s anti-cop atmosphere, the police are portrayed as unsympathetic, brutal, bumbling, and generally not all that great.  (Since we do not want to ruin the film for you, we will not be going into plot detail so as to avoid spoilers.)

Every episode (and thus the entire movie) is written and directed by Canadian Veena Sud, which creates a consistency in the story and the “feel” of the film.  (Sud is the driving force behind the AMC series, The Killing.)  The series debuted in April of 2020, and will now be available in the movie format.  While special effects are not a showcase part of the film, they are extremely effective anyway.  For a noirish type of film, the lighting is sufficient that the audience will not be reaching for their night vision devices.  (A pet peeve of ours is movies and television shows that are so dark, unrealistically so dark, that you can hardly make out what is going on.  That is not the case in this thriller.)  The protagonist is Clare, played by 27 year old Maika Monroe, a California girl that is a kiteboarder as well as an actress.  With credits such as It Follows, The Guest, Tau and Villains, she has street cred as a certifiable “scream queen.”  Her nemesis is her evil fare, Carl E, played by Dane DeHaan who was the title character in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.  Younger looking than his 34 years would indicate, DeHaan conquers his boyish good looks to play a convincing psycho.  Speaking of mental illness, it transpires in the film that our own heroine has skeleton in her closet that makes us question her stability as well.  Supporting actors do a good job as well, notably Avan Tudor Jogia as a stereotypical East Indian mini-mart proprietor.  (He is Canadian of Indian and European heritage.)

We really would like to talk about the character development of Clare and Carl, but we fear doing so would give away too much spoiler material.  Suffice to say, Clare especially evolves as the nightmare unfolds into the long hours approaching dawn.  The film features murder and mayhem, life and death struggle, and may not be suitable for sensitive children, though most teens should be just fine.

Moving quickly and logically, The Stranger is engaging and will keep your attention focused during the entire movie/series.  We strongly recommend the film and think that fans of damsel in distress films will too!  Enjoy!

Question for students (and subscribers): What is your favorite damsel in distress thriller? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Malone, Alicia.  The Female Gaze: Essential Movies Made by Women.  Mango, 2018.

Silver, Alain, James Ursini and Elizabeth Ward, editors.  The Film Noir Encyclopedia.  Harry N. Abrams, 2010.

The featured image in this article, a promotional poster for the 2020 series, The Stranger, is of a poster, and the copyright for it is most likely owned by either the publisher or the creator of the work depicted.  It is believed that the use of scaled-down, low-resolution images of posters to provide critical commentary on the film, event, etc. in question or of the poster itself, not solely for illustration on a website intended for educational purposes, hosted on servers in the United States, qualifies as fair use under the copyright law of the United States.


About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.