22 October 2016

31 Days of Horror Day 22: The Dark Stranger 2015 - REVIEW

With the popularity of shows like The Walking Dead growing and growing, there has been a resurgence of interest in graphic novels. People who have never had any interest in comics are now picking them up on a regular basis and drooling at the thought of the next big release. Of course there are those dedicated fans of comics that camp out in front of stores for hours to get the latest issue of their favorite comic.

The film centers on Leah (Katie Findlay), a talented young artist who is recovering from a recent traumatic event and afraid to leave her own home. While recovering, her father (Enrico Colantoni) is visited by a suspicious art curator (Stephen McHattie) looking into her family’s past. As part of her therapy, she begins drawing a graphic novel in which an ominous Dark Stranger pursues a lonely girl doll, across a foreboding fairy tale landscape. As the work on the novel progresses, Leah begins to see the Dark Stranger in real life. At first, she isn’t sure if she is completely losing her mind, or if the Stranger is a deadly supernatural force, trying to destroy her.

Delving into the mind of a mentally disturbed person is a challenging task yet director Chris Trebilcock makes it look easy. The time he spends developing the character of Leah makes it possible for viewers to connect with her Findlay brings it all together with a stunning performance. Colantoni also does a stellar job portraying Leah's devoted father. He brings a genuine quality to the character that comes through in every scene. He is believable as a father trying to deal with death of his wife while simultaneously trying to keep his family from falling apart. Is it necessary for me to even discuss the greatness that is McHattie? Does he not shine in everything he does? I may be a little biased though since he's been one of my favorite actors for many years.

The artwork throughout the film is pretty phenomenal and the juxtaposition from reality to come flows extremely well. While The Dark Stranger isn't particularly scary, there are some moments where a well inserted "DUN" might get you. There are a couple of issues I have with the film. There is no buffer between "everything is fine" and "shit just hit the fan". So when it comes time for the plot twist to be revealed, it feels rushed. From that point on, the film loses it's footing a bit. After spending so much time developing an intense, well rounded story, the "final showdown" is over before you know it. Lastly the backdrop for the scenes where fantasy meets reality is a little cheesy and ends up looking more high school play than feature film. Regardless, I would recommend The Dark Stranger to anyone who enjoys a good suspenseful movie. It's a solid addition to the thriller genre.

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