Stranger is a very strange film. Playing at this years FrightFest its haunting and hallucinogenic imagery and extremely cryptic plot line will not be to everyone’s taste however if you are willing to be carried along with it you might just be sucked in the same way I was.
Written and directed by Dmitriy Tomashpolskiy Stranger opens with a H.P Lovecraft quote and ends with the line “a tribute to my father who I have never seen.” Themes of water, monsters, time travel, identity and relationships between fathers and daughters flood the scene overwhelming the story which as mentioned is a seemingly deliberate meandering muddle.
Stern and stoic Inspector Gluhovsky (Anastasiya Yevtushenko) is investigating the disappearance of a patient at a vast and secretive water-therapy clinic with very few clues to go by save that fact that the victim took a pine and bubble bath.
After failing to solve the case of a vanishing synchronised swimming team years earlier the Inspector is determined to tie this new case up in a neat bow however the longer she explores the crazy clinic the weirder things get.
The acting in Stranger is a blend of non naturalistic and more conventional with certain characters acting extremely oddly all to heighten the surreal mood of the whole piece. In other areas of the film, characters such as the clinically depressed Zezulia (Sergey Kalantay) who wanders between scenes claiming no one loves or needs him, feel far more normal and offer an emotional heart to the film that it definitely needs.
Throwing water nymphs, possessed dolls, sinister men in hazmat suits, creepy nurses, amphibious monsters and what sneezing means at the audience you definitely wont get bored watching Stranger the question is more whether you can stick with it all or not.
For those that embrace the Lynchian nature of the movie the visuals are stunning creating a dreamlike spell over the audience as well as the Inspector making us question everything we see and hear. This sets us instantly on edge and the tense and unnerving quality that permeates the film gives it a far more horror movie slant than the story or content might imply.
A Ukrainian oddity Stranger will thrill those with a eye for the more unhinged and bizarre side of cinema. For anyone else it might be a bit much but I for one hope Dmitriy Tomashpolskiy sticks to his distinct style and keeps creating these nightmare movies.