18th May2021

‘Stalker’ VOD Review

by Chris Cummings

Stars: Christine Ko, Michael Lee Joplin, Vincent Van Horn, Dusty Sorg, Carla Valentine, Scott Subiono, Landry Allbright, Paula Jai Parker, Chase Joliet, Stephanie Barkley, Steve Sobel, Alex Dobrenko | Written by Tyler Savage, Dash Hawkins | Directed by Tyler Savage

Stalker is directed by Tyler Savage (Inheritance) and written by both Savage and Dash Hawkins. It introduces us to Andy, played by Vincent Van Horn, who moves from Texas to Los Angeles after his long-term relationship dissolves. He quickly meets a girl named Sam (Christine Ko) at a dive-bar and they start to hang out and see each other, but it also isn’t long before Andy meets Roger (Michael Lee Joplin), a ride-share driver, and things start to swan-dive for the new LA resident.

Andy, fighting against the feeling of rejection from his family and buddies back in Dallas and the isolation and loneliness of this new gigantic city, decides to go for a beer with Roger. Not the best decision poor Andy will make in his life. Joplin, as Roger, immediately brings unease and awkwardness, this feeling of tension in every scene he’s a part of, and I thought he was terrific. The way he injects himself into the veins of Andy’s life and infects it in the most cruel and psychotic of ways is where the horror of this film exists. Roger is demented, sick and hellbent, and Andy is his play-thing.

Stalker is a glossy and slick looking film that has a very tonally fresh feel going on. Van Horn does a great job as Andy and Joplin, as Roger, is just that right kind of crazy. The whole thing feels like it should feel. That sounds like a weird thing to say, but I felt like Stalker knew from the get-go exactly what it wanted to be and what it wanted to do, and it did it brilliantly. It’s packed with tension, dark humour and some demented ideas, and all of these things go into a cauldron to create a pyschological horror with some old-school exploitation ideals at it’s black heart. Ko brings a real sincerity and kindness to things as Sam, a necessary calm in the midst of the storm occurring in Andy’s life. I liked her presence a lot here, and thought Ko was great in the role. Without her, the ability to glimpse into Andy’s vulnerabilities and warmth, his desire to move on from heartbreak, wouldn’t exist and it’s very much needed so that film has balance. Between Roger and his violent and erratic hankerings and Sam’s affectionate and tangible companionship, Andy’s story unfolds in a manner that makes us crave his triumph over all the bad shit that’s happening to him. It’s pretty brilliant, really.

Aside from the way it speaks about obsession, the way it almost begs us to “know before we go” when it comes to letting people into our lives, Stalker also highlights and hints at the loneliness and plastic insincerity that many outsiders view Los Angeles to have. The quiet reluctance and imperfect gloss of the people, the hills and the skies of this famous yet surreal place, it all comes into play here and only adds to the unease and anxiety of the plot. Savage, and co-writer Hawkins, have done a superb job at twisting the fabric of dreamlike confusion that comes with finding yourself in a new place, and the purgatory of being pursued from the shadows while your own mind is still embroiled in a war with the past.

A twisted kaleidoscope of terror and madness, Stalker is fueled by some on-point writing and direction, with a ton of ideas that just work really well. It’s violent, frenzied and dark, and puts those thoughts into your head, those awful thoughts we all sometimes get when we watch dark thrillers or horror films, in which our mind echoes back to us the words, “what if this was happening to you?”. The ease in which it is possible, these days, to look into the lives of pretty much anybody due to social media and the internet, makes films like this one all the more creepy and all the easier to put yourself into the shoes of. Andy is, in many ways, what many of us could be if we found ourselves mixed up with someone who was willing to stalk and haunt our every move. It’s pretty damn terrifying, and Stalker pitches and lands the whole concept with a precision and alarming amount of tension. It is, though, still a whole lot of fun, and one of those movies I will find very easy to recommend. Now… I’m just gonna go set all my profiles to private and block a few phone numbers. Later.

**** 4/5

Stalker is released on VOD in the UK on may 21st, courtesy of Vertical Entertainment.

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