🩸 out of 🩸🩸🩸🩸🩸 because Trader‘s brand of psychological chills don’t require lurid displays of gruesomeness.
Tense chiller Trader boasts energetic direction and editing along with a jaw-dropping performance by Kimberly-Sue Murray as the only character seen on screen, a sociopath bent on making money from day trading, no matter the cost to others.
Directed by Corey Stanton
I went into Trader (Canada, 2022) a bit reluctantly because the stock market trading angle mentioned in its logline didn’t appeal much to me, but I’m elated that I gave the film a shot, as I was hooked from the opening scene. Writer/director Corey Stanton’s bottle movie is a mesmerizing portrayal of a manipulative sociopath that I can’t recommend highly enough.
Kimberly-Sue Murray gives a star-making solo performance as Trader, a young woman who we meet successfully voice phishing an elderly man out of credit card and prescription information, which she then uses to buy mail order drugs for herself. It is obvious she is no first-timer in pulling off scams. Her diet seems to consist mostly of wasabi — which she snorts as well as eats — and energy drinks, which fuels her for working out and pondering on self-affirmations.
Trader sets her sights on making money as a day trader. As part of her research, she connects with online financial guru Bob the Broker (the voice of Shaun Benson), and the two participate in a plan to make lots of money, and naturally ethics are thrown out the window.
The film is set in Trader’s bare basement apartment, but Stanton provides a wide array of striking visuals — all captured wonderfully by cinematographer Carl Elster, with Stanton also doing super work on the editing — that make this single setting work tremendously. Extreme close-ups of Murray’s eyes and facial expressions help drive home the twisted determination of her character, while slow additions to the apartment — such as colored lamps that come into play — help build the puzzle pieces of the film.
Murray is the only actor seen on screen, and Trader is a textbook example of the type of performance needed to pull off this approach. Her character hits manic highs and depressing lows, and Murray nails everything asked of her. She also does terrific voice acting as she portrays different characters during phone calls. Hers is truly an award-worthy performance in an award-worthy film.
The character of Trader is written with depth and scope, as Stanton has viewers conflicted on whether to root for or against her, and their allegiances are likely to change back and forth. Trader is a multifaceted, complex character from whom other characters — not to mention viewers — may never know how much truth is behind some of her stated background and how much is fabrication that she feels is necessary for the moment.
Trader is not about onscreen violence, but the lengths to which Murray’s goes to pursue her goals are as chilling as any shocker boasting impressive gore effects.
Review by Joseph Perry
Trader will be available on U.S. VOD beginning August 10th, 2023, from XYZ Films.
Trader screens as part of Panic Fest 2023, which takes place in person from April 13–19, 2023 in Kansas City, Missouri, and which offers a virtual fest from April 14–23.