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Welcome to Knockout Horror. Today we are reviewing British horror movie Stalker. Featuring solid performances and a fairly intriguing plot. Stalker is an example of a horror movie that out thinks itself. Spending the majority of its run time leading the viewer in one direction. It quickly yanks you by the arm. Suddenly dragging you down a completely different one. The question is, does it succeed? Well, not really. Let’s take a look.
As I mentioned in my review of Followers. I have been seriously absent the past week. After putting out new content nearly every day of the week for quite awhile. I have had to take a little time away to do some car stuff. I’m back now and we will be getting back to regular updates.
I have, obviously, been keeping up with horror movies. Things are just so quiet at the moment. The UK version of Shudder is, frankly, a bit of a joke. They rarely add new movies and their line up of older stuff is lacklustre at best. Trying to find some of the newer movies hitting streaming services is a real pain. Still, we do have movies to talk about. Both new and a little older. The first of which is a horror that actually had quite a bit of potential. Potential that, sadly, is never realised.
We put out a couple of Horror Movie Ending Explained articles each week. In these articles, we take a look at certain movies and explain the ending. It’s pretty straightforward really. Many of these films may have obvious endings with a few questions left unanswered. Others will be ridiculously confusing. We approach them all the same and try to clear things up.
Stalker has a messy and rather convoluted ending. Full of timeline jumps and poorly explained details. The lacklustre writing leaves plenty unexplained. We aim to clear these things up in our Stalker Ending Explained article. Obviously, all ending explained articles contain spoilers. If you haven’t watched the movie. Carry on reading the review, check it out and come back for our explanation.
Stalker follows the story of actor Rose. Currently working as the lead character in a horror movie. Rose was brought in to replace the original lead actor who has mysteriously vanished. Staying at a lousy hotel. Rose is forced to use the freight elevator to reach her room. While entering, she is joined by a strange man. The pair begin chatting when the lift suddenly stops. It soon becomes clear that the man knows more about Rose than she realised. On top of this. She is trapped in the elevator with him with no way to escape.
So, as you can see, this is a fairly interesting premise. The thought of being trapped in a broken lift with your stalker is nightmare fuel. Especially for a vulnerable woman. Alone in an old, poorly maintained hotel, in a strange city. It’s a great concept and one that offers the opportunity for some serious tension. Tension that Stalker does, occasionally, deliver on. Still, this is a movie that isn’t entirely dedicated to its horror leanings.
Stalker is one of those movies that is almost difficult to class as a horror. It is so different from traditional horror that it almost doesn’t fit. It is, at its core, more of a mystery thriller. Foregoing themes of action and scares. Stalker, instead, chooses to build its plot slowly. It wants to keep the viewer guessing. Exposing them to a slow drip feeding of information. Methodical and considered in it delivery. Stalker is keen to keep you off base. Never really allowing you to settle. Always switching the story up and pulling the rug from underneath you.
Before we move on with the review. It has to be said that this movie is not for everyone. The strong focus on character interactions. As well as the confined location offer little in the way of excitement. This is a movie that focuses, primarily, on character study. Relying on the conversations that take place in the elevator to push things forward. Some people will find this difficult to focus on. Others may simply find it a bit too boring to enjoy. Very little happens here.
Needless to say, people with attention complications may find their minds wandering. ADHD sufferers might want for a point of focus. Perhaps also struggling with what is a considerable degree of inane chatter. It is quiet easy to drift away from the story. Losing track of what the characters are saying. Something that will be difficult to overcome as this movie is fairly long. Far too long, really, given the events that take place. This may not be a good option for anyone who struggles with concentration.
Taking place entirely within the confines of a small elevator. Stalker is a heavily character driven movie. Featuring little outside of conversation. The plot here is driven by interactions between our two characters. Characters that couldn’t actually be any more different. Rose is an outgoing and bold actor. Jaded by her experience of being a woman in the male dominated world of movie making. She complains about the treatment she has received at the hands of the movie’s director. Strangely enough, played by wrestling icon Bret “The Hitman” Hart in a cameo role. In fact, it is the aforementioned poor treatment that has landed her in this situation. The production team having not coughed up for a better hotel.
Daniel, on the other hand, is a quiet and reserved man. Shy and softly spoken. His personality contrasts starkly against that of our protagonist. His obsessive collecting of video footage seems a little odd. He is a B-roll cameraman on Rose’s movie. But that does little to explain his propensity for recording private conversations. His secret filming of Rose in a vulnerable moment only begs more questions. Daniel’s explanation for why he is at the hotel does little to calm Rose’s suspicions. Leaving the viewer to wonder just what is going on. As mentioned above, this is a movie that has a lot of questions to be answered.
At times, the open ended nature of the story is a good thing. The tantalising prospect of clever revelations does keep you engaged. We are presented with a fairly simple situation. A young, attractive and, seemingly, vulnerable actor is stuck in a lift. The only company she has is a man that seems beyond strange. It should be a relatively straight forward story. There is a consistent feeling that something isn’t quite right, though.
Just when you think you know what is happening. The story changes and things seem a little less clear. This is something that happens a number of times throughout the film. Stalker constantly invites the viewer to come up with their own explanations. This is something I quite enjoyed about the movie. I hit on something about half way through. My mind built it up into something huge and I bought into the story pretty hard.
The problem is, however, that Stalker really doesn’t stick the landing. Around halfway through, the movie begins to heavily telegraph certain upcoming twists. Revealing that the, seemingly, once nuanced characters we have been watching. Are actually not that nuanced at all. They are exactly what you thought they were. No more and no less. It’s all a bit disappointing. The big plot twist I had been hoping for only half came true. Leaving me desperately wanting for more and feeling painfully short changed.
This sounds like a bit of an unfair criticism. But the thing is, the ending is just so lacklustre. It builds itself up and promises something fantastic. When it arrives, however, it doesn’t even come close to delivering. It is just so painfully obvious and lacking in care. The movie goes to great lengths to explain prior events. Almost as if expecting the viewer to be too dumb to have realised what is happening. The truth is, however, you likely will have guessed it all half way through. Stalker is a movie that is very content with doing the expected. A real shame given some of the earlier promise.
That’s really not the worst thing about Stalker’s final 20 minutes, though. For some baffling reason. The director has decided to use a mixed timeline. Leading to the movie jumping between events taking place in the present. And events that will take place a minute or two in the future. But that is not all. We also have to contend with flashback scenes. Further explaining the story and further muddying the events on screen.
It is a baffling decision and makes the ending horrible to watch. I have no idea why it was cut together like this. It is one of the worst examples of timeline jumping I have seen in a movie. I am assuming it was intended to look stylish. It completely misses the mark, though.
As the movie plays out its final minute. A character gurns awkwardly at the camera for around 90 seconds. Almost giving the director a bit of time to pat themselves on the arse. Convinced that they just whipped out the biggest horror movie twist in history. It’s painfully awkward but feels fitting given how messy the ending is.
Speaking of direction, this is one of the problems with Stalker. Some of the shots here are a little bizarre. The confined nature of an elevator should offer opportunities for interesting filming techniques. As with the similarly claustrophobic Shut In. The lack of space should breed creativity. Leaving no inch of the location unexplored. The problem is, Stalker never really manages to achieve this. Steve Johnson never manages to evoke that feeling of claustrophobia. This is a very large lift with plenty of real estate. The characters don’t feel like they are trapped in a small space. Something that should be at the very core of the movie just doesn’t exist.
Johnson has a tendency towards using bizarre angles. Awkward closeups that feel like they add nothing. Irrelevant points of focus. I understand what Johnson was going for. Especially given the intimacy of the location. But, despite this, I really didn’t feel like it worked particularly well. Pacing bears mention here, as well. This is a movie that should have been a short. It is far too long. It would have benefitted from being around 30 minutes long.
The direction is not the biggest problem, however. The writing and script can claim that accolade. Chris Watt’s heavy handed dialogue consistently robs the movie of intrigue. Revealing too much about our characters. While, simultaneously, having them engage in pointless rhetoric. These are characters that harp on about everything and nothing. Making the movie feel rather padded. The ending suffers tremendously for the poor writing. Forcing characters to explain events like they are talking to five years olds. It’s rather lacklustre all around.
Acting is, generally, fantastic. Stuart Brennan, as Daniel, is excellent. Completely convincing as a socially awkward, repressed, individual. The little touches Brennan puts into his performance are what makes the difference. The tone of Daniel’s voice. The slight facial twitches and reluctance to make eye contact. It is fantastic stuff and utterly convincing. There is a scene or two, towards the end, that feel a bit lacking. Daniel’s character momentarily slips. But I blame the writing for that. Brennan is brilliant throughout.
Sophie Skelton, as Rose, is a little more mixed. She does an excellent job for the vast majority of the film. Perfectly convincing as an actor struggling with both her job and ego. It is only the latter parts that she seems to struggle a little. The story demands some things from her that she doesn’t quite nail. It’s nothing too dramatic but worthy of note. She does a great job for most part, though. Bret Hart is a weird addition to the cast. I wasn’t expecting to see him. He is fine, I am sure wrestling fans will enjoy seeing him.
Unfortunately, Stalker is not a knockout. Is it a bad movie? Not at all. It is fairly watchable for much of its length. That doesn’t mean it is a good movie, though. It never manages to capitalise on its fantastic acting and engaging premise. Whereas the plot seems, initially, pretty compelling. The poor writing really lets the movie down.
A few twists and turns will have you wondering what will come next. The last twenty minutes really begin to unravel, though. Making the seemingly predictable middle suddenly seem like more of a problem. This is a movie with limited ideas and a pay off that feels unsatisfying. The messy filming style really comes to a head in the final scenes. Creating a horrible mess of jumbled continuity and brutally obvious exposition. Stalker is watchable. The acting is excellent and you may enjoy the unique approach to horror. As it stands, however, it lets itself down in a number of areas making it a hard recommend.
As of this writing. You can check Stalker out right now for free on Amazon FreeVee in the UK. I have absolutely no clue where this is showing in the US. It is rentable so you can check that out on Vudu. I wouldn’t rent it, though. Wait for it to appear on Tubi or something. I imagine it will be on there in no time.