By Bill Arceneaux
Does it seem like Eli Roth—director of Hostel and Cabin Fever—will put his name on anything? I think so, especially given the case of The Stranger. What did “The Bear Jew” see in this film school reject schlock fest of suck? Maybe he fell in love with the premise? Or perhaps his assistant just used a signature stamp in exchange for a sack of cash? Was the writer/director a friend of Eli’s?
Yes, it’s the third one.
The title evokes one of those trashy hitchhiker killer tales that you might come across late at night on cable. Instead of having that kind of potential for fun, The Stranger aspires for tragedy more than anything else. I think. There are so many laughably bad and technically bad elements here that suggest multiple tonal shifts. It’s entirely probable that writer/director Guillermo Amoedo meant for his film to induce joy as well as fright. If that scenario is to be believed, then he is only slightly more skilled than Tommy Wiseau.
The Stranger is about, well, a stranger. He’s a bearded loner, coming to a small, possibly American (the actors certainly try to pretend to be from this country) town, by way of a boat. I mention his transportation because the rest of the film takes place in what appears to be a landlocked Southwest region. First failure right out of the gate, though correct me if I’m wrong. He’s attacked by some random thugs, led by the greatest actor this side of Matthew Lillard. Not-Lillard reads lines so poorly, it had to have been planned by him before the shoot… right? A corrupt cop and some fire related incidents later, we shift from family secrets and such to vampire blood run amok. From there, it becomes a chase, then about redemption? Aloha was easier to comprehend than this.
I shouldn’t be so negative, should I? No. The cinematography, done by Chechu Graf, was on point. Within shots, Chechu knew where to place and point the camera, what to include and exclude from the frame and how to forward the story and emotions along visually. Unfortunately, the keyboard cat was the editor. Scenes sometimes transition and cut from one to the other without reason or purpose. Other times, they get lucky, and it happens to be in order.
I assume that the crew—friends of Eli Roth—were given an opportunity to shoot something in order to learn something. More or less, it may have been a favor for helping out on previous projects. Almost like how Robert Rodriguez let a crew member be co-director on the misfire Machete. Maybe Roth is just a generous guy, letting friends further their careers through trial and error.
Why does the audience have to suffer, though? Couldn’t you just put this up on Crackle with Joe Dirt 2 and be done with it? Nah—Crackle is beneath Eli Roth. Would be a shame to attach his name to something of THAT quality…
1 / 5 *s
The Stranger is coming, whether you want it or not, to Manship Theatre on July 8th. Come on by and have a laugh! For more from the author, follow him on twitter @BillReviews and visit his blog CriticalNO.com.