★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
Fine performances and some clever variations on stalker-cinema tropes make Blinders a strong recommendation for fans of menacing-madmen movies.
Directed by Tyler Savage
Stalkers have long been a part of horror and thriller cinema, and it is rare that a film with a creepy antagonist ruining someone’s life offers a new variance on things. Director Tyler Savage’s Blinders does just that, though, offering up some nifty, if disturbing, surprises.
Andy Escobedo (Vincent Van Horn of Savage’s Inheritance) has just moved from Texas to Los Angeles with his dog Juicebox, leaving behind him friendships and a broken relationship. He meets location scout Sam (Christine Ko of Extracurricular Activities) at a bar, who suggests they go to her place and calls a rideshare service. Unfortunately, their driver is Roger Perkins (Michael Lee Joplin of #Slaughterhouse), who bumps into Andy the next day and then begins asserting himself into Andy’s life so often that Andy lies to him and then ghosts him. This doesn’t sit well with Roger, who has a knack for working his way into Andy’s home, social media, and so on. As Andy’s relationship with Sam gets closer, Roger becomes increasingly unhinged.
Blinders initially relies on some tropes of the “stalker who seemed like a nice person at first” variety, but Joplin’s unnerving facial expressions and performance are so good that it is easy to overlook that. He invests his villainous character with the exact right amount of creepiness to make your skin crawl without going over the top. Roger’s maniacal laughter and sense of glee as he watches the results of his handiwork are chilling, indeed.
As the lead characters finding love amongst danger, Van Horn is solid as a down-on-his-luck everyman driven by Roger to act out in ways that are out of bounds for his personality, and Ko is terrific as a woman who sees something in Andy and tries to take him out of his comfort zone as she shows him around Los Angeles. Ko’s character Sam is more than just a love interest or a potential helpless victim of the antagonist.
Savage, who cowrote the screenplay with Dash Hawkins, mounts the suspense at a superb pace, allowing viewers to catch their breath during the relationship-building scenes between Andy and Sam, all the while knowing that trouble lies ahead because of Roger’s insane jealousy. Starting off as a nail-biting thriller, Blinders dives into horror territory in its third act, including a violent act that is more disturbing than the average slasher kill.
Blinders had its world premiere as part of Arrow Video FrightFest’s 2020 digital edition, which ran August 28–31.