You’d think a movie with “Stranger” in its title might have something new to offer. This isn’t the case in “The Stranger.” Guillermo Amoeda’s amateurish bore of a horror movie plods on and on to a conclusion that’s as gory as it is hard to care about. The sensibility is try-hard, the performances forced, and the premise contrived. As I type this, I am rewatching it just to see if anything about it was decent. Not good, just decent. And it turns out, Amoeda, as a director, has potential.
In a truly uninspired turn, “The Stranger” follows Martin (Cristobal Tapia Montt) who’s returned to an unnamed town in rural America. He’s slow to reveal his motives, and it’s hard to know if watching to find them out is even worth it. After he’s stabbed by Caleb (Ariel Levy), the son of the local police officer Lieutenant De Luca (Luis Gnecco), a troubled crack-addicted kid (Nicolas Duran) takes him in and nurses him back to health. After that, a lot of things happen, events engineered for maximum cruelty, and “The Stranger” loses all purpose.
Let’s start with the basics: the storytelling is a nightmare. There are at least three major narrative reveals that happen in flashbacks. Most of them involve Martin’s relationship to other, equally lifeless characters. Amoeda plays these moments like grand revelations when they’re anything but. How can you be surprised by characters you don’t care about? From the writing to the performances, nothing makes the hour and a half less of a brutal slog.
What makes it even worse is that Amoeda has some inspired moments. To properly capture what watching “The Stranger” is like, it’s best to describe how watching it feels. There are shots in here that are almost beautiful, Peter pedaling across the street at sunset, for example, that make you feel like it will get better. It inspires hope in a way few horror movies do. And at every turn, it rips that hope to shreds.
The bulk of that disappointment lies in the performances. Montt, in the lead role, Levy, Gnecco and Duran in the supporting ones, to be fair thought, they don’t have much to work with. The script is a thin excuse for a movie. Any character-building is mostly accidental and serves to bind each needless moment of violence to the next. And even in those moments, there are no stakes whatsoever. Amoeda is well-versed in this kind of horror, having written Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno, yet he still falls short.
If you have “The Stranger” on your must-watch list, X it out right now. It’s a preposterously boring, slipshod nightmare barely held together by bloodless acting and a sloppy script. Amoeda has potential as a director and provocateur, but he ultimately falls short on both counts. Sitting through it is like swimming through molasses except there’s no chance of drowning. Only finishing a sad excuse for a horror flick and wondering where all that time went.