Some films are incredibly unsettling, not because they are scary per se, but because they feel so real; they get under your skin because they are rooted in realism and truth. And let’s be honest; the world is a scary place, as demonstrated in Stalker.
On his first night in Los Angeles, Andy (Vincent Van Horn) meets Sam (Christine Ko) in a bar. Vulnerable from a long-term break-up, Andy has the drive to start fresh in a new city but is still dwelling on the past. Nonetheless, he and Sam hit it off, and at the end of the night, they share a ride back to her place. Their driver is the unnerving Roger (Michael Lee Joplin), who forms a stalker-like attachment to Andy that becomes extremely difficult to shake off. Throughout the film, Roger inserts and infiltrates every aspect of Andy’s life — first by ‘running into Andy at a coffee shop the following day where he forces his number on him with the guise of introducing him to the city, and then never allowing Andy a moment to himself. As Roger attempts to drive a wedge between Andy’s burgeoning relationship with Sam, his motifs become darker, more sinister and more troubling.
Let me tell the animal lovers that Andy’s sweet dog, Juicebox, is spared any harm in this film (thank goodness; because of the way things were going, I was apprehensive). Instead, the movie plays on the intense psychological mind games people can turn the information you reveal freely to them against you, with disastrous consequences.
Director Tyler Savage weaves his tight script with some beautiful location shots of the city. Savage smartly plays into the darker angle of Los Angeles history, the flip side to a town known for its movie star golden glamour, by zoning in on stories of newcomers who have become lost in this city where they are striving to be seen. This visibility Andy is seeking is his downfall, as he becomes an easy target, as Savage shows how easy is it for newcomers to cities to be duped by the kindness of strangers when they are lonely and desperate to fit into their new place. While Andy is not necessarily a good person (for reasons that will become clear), he does possess a vulnerability and realism, and we are sympathetic to his plight (while tearing our hair out at his mistakes to ward off Roger). All of this serves to make the film’s tense ending even more affecting.
Stalker reveals how dangerous social media and the internet is when we let down our guard and how easy and free we are with our information. It is a warning not to be careful of the kindness of strangers.
Stalker is out on VOD 21 May 2021.