The Fun Has Only Just Begun
Serving as an homage to 80’s slasher movies, The Stalker is a surprisingly engrossing Indie mystery that crumbles under some narrative issues. Clocking in at 60 minutes, this thriller wastes an intriguing premise with a questionable ending. However, the film does a really good job getting you invested in the story, with numerous characters coming forward as the potential stalker. Unfortunately a rushed third act leaves many unanswered questions and a possible sequel on the table that may or may not arrive.
The story itself revolves around sleazy businessman Steve. He’s forced into making the tough decision of letting a top employee go to prop up his own salary and bonus. After calling Marc into his office, Steve makes up a sexual harassment claim and sends him on his merry way. Convinced he’ll land on his own two feet, Steve continues on with his business while Marc ends up in parts unknown.
Skip forward 1 year and Steve is still living the high life with his wife Wendy. When flowers show up at their porch that night however, the couple learn their nightmare has only just begun. Someone has been stalking them and all fingers point to it being Marc.
After an altercation in the back garden, the couple pack up their things and hurry up to their lake-house for the weekend. With their two boys Hayden and Josh, the family settle in to weather the storm and wait for all this to blow over.
As the film progresses, numerous shady characters come to the foreground including a creepy cable guy and a suspect pizza delivery worker called Craig. There’s also Officer Kingsley who comes sniffing around and the ominous presence of Marc himself. There’s plenty of suspects here and that’s partly some of the reason you’ll stick around with this one until the end.
The opening shot of the movie is one that seems questionable in the moment until you realize it’s done to cleverly obscure Marc’s true identity. Without actually know what this man looks like, it makes things a lot more mysterious as you start to question just who this could be or if he’s even involved at all.
Although I guessed who the killer was, I didn’t expect the movie to take the turn that it does with this information – and that’s a good thing! Out of all the problems this thriller has, the fact that it catches you off-guard during the third act is reason enough to watch through to the credits (and the post-credit scene of course.)
Unfortunately this twist also comes at the expense of narrative cohesion as certain plot points are completely disregarded at the end. I won’t spoil anything here but suffice to say it’s disappointing not to see some closure to the bigger narrative points discussed.
That’s before even mentioning the camera work which ranges from pretty good to pretty bad across the run-time. There’s a few nicely framed scenes – including the final shot of the movie and another inside a diner – while the musical score is suitably 80’s-esque. In fact, almost everything about this film feels dated as if it’s been plucked from that era of slashers and into 2020. Unfortunately it also fails to bring the same level of charm and charisma seen in some of the those early horror slashers of old.
A lot of these problems stem from the characters themselves who just aren’t that likable. Steve is a difficult guy to warm to – especially after his unpleasant opening scene – while Wendy has little characterization across the movie. This makes the ability to empathize with these people harder than it perhaps should be.
Ultimately though The Stalker is a below-average slasher that tries to make the most of its thin budget with nods toward the 80’s. There’s definitely some redeeming features but they collapse under the weight of a consistent story and an unnecessary cliffhanger ending. If a sequel is commissioned, I do hope the movie tightens up the script as tonally there’s definitely some potential to play up the nostalgia a bit more. Beyond that though, The Stalker is a difficult movie to recommend to anyone other than serious slasher aficionados.
Verdict - 4/10