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Joseph’s Reviews: STALKER and MEAN SPIRITED (Arrow Video FrightFest)


Stalker

★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★

This trapped-in-an-elevator chiller is a strong new addition to the subgenre, with terrific performances and a dark finale.

Directed by Steve Johnson

Fangoria! Woo!

Up-and-coming — or at least she hopes so — actor (don’t call her actress) Rose Hepburn (Sophie Skelton of Day of the Dead: Bloodline) is less than thrilled about being put up in a mere three-star hotel by the producers of the film she is working on, but things only get worse for her when she becomes stuck in the hotel’s elevator with Daniel Reed (Stuart Brennan of The Necromancer and The Reverend), a B-roll cameraman who is working on the same production. As astute readers might guess from the film’s title, it’s no accident that Reed is on the same elevator as Hepburn, and director Steve Johnson, working from a razor-sharp screenplay by Chris Watt, keeps the questions and suspense building at a steady clip as Stalker heads toward its unnerving climax. Mostly a two-hander set in the elevator, the film boasts imaginative shots from Johnson and cinematographer Simon Stolland that keep the visuals engaging, and Skelton as the suspicious Hepburn and Brennan as the mousy, mysterious Reed give fine performances as they display superb chemistry together.

Mean Spirited

★★★ out of ★★★★★

If you are no fan of jackassery and tomfoolery by vloggers, you may be interested in the fate of one such character . . . though you’ll have to sit through jackassery and tomfoolery by a vlogger to get there. 

Directed by Jeff Ryan

Horror movie takes on vloggers, social influencers, and the like run the gamut from highly intriguing to flat-out boring, but they generally share one thing in common: the exposure-obsessed — or self-obsessed — main characters are usually difficult to bear for the running time of a feature film. Mean Spirited’s Andy (Will Madden) is no exception to the rule, but it should be made clear that this is director Jeff Ryan’s intention, and Madden plays the part with gusto. Andy is jealous both personally and professionally of old friend Bryce (Jeff Ryan), who overcame a horrific childhood incident — in which Andy abandoned him and ran away rather than trying to help — to become a well-known actor. Andy leads his crew of vlogging assistants and some friends and frenemies to Bryce’s new, upscale digs, located in a somewhat remote area, naturally. Andy acts obnoxiously from the get-go with Bryce, and when a Ouija board prank upsets the latter, things begin to take a turn for the worse for the group in this supernatural feature. Just how much viewers can tolerate a group of Jackass-type twentysomethings and their clique will be a test for some, but the cast members do a solid job with their portrayals, and Ryan, who cowrote the screenplay with Joe Adams, successfully takes the film to some dark, surprising places.

Reviews by Joseph Perry

Stalker and Mean Spirited screen as part of Arrow Video FrightFest, which takes place in London, UK from August 11–August 22, 2022. For more information, visit https://www.frightfest.co.uk/.

Categories: Festivals, ReviewsTags: , ,

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