Directed by: #NicholasBushman
Written by: Nicholas Bushman, #MikeDwyer
A Hitchcockian styled suspense thriller with sci-fi leanings, indie film Stranger in the Dunes from #filmmaker Nicholas Bushman is a gripping yarn with enough dramatic and cinematic twists to swim in.
Delphine Chanéac and Andrew Hovelson play Diana and Elliot respectively, a married couple with more than a few bitter words to share between them. Their awkward isolation at their beautiful coastal property is pierced by the arrival of a wild friend from their past called Wesley (Mike Dwyer - who also co-writes here). At first it's just the flirting between Diana and Wesley that looks to upset the apple cart but when the trio discover a seriously weird natural phenomena located in one of the dunes, things get even stranger.
Bushman blends several cinematic styles in his movie that makes Stranger in the Dunes rather compelling. First, the picturesque beach location and gorgeous #cinematography lure the audience into the familiar atmosphere of a romantic drama about to go awry. Then characters start locating guns, and we think we have a thriller to grapple with. Then when the plot takes a dip into the surreal it's balls-to-the-wall anyone's guess as to what we're watching and it's really thrilling.
The chemistry between the three performers is great and there are some spectacular moments from each of them during the piece. At some other times, dialogue feels clumsy, as if tripping over itself in order to align the characters with such a movable storyline. The coalescing motivations of each character does nothing to cure this confusion, resulting in a viewing experience whereby the audience may struggle to attach emotionally to any of them. Dwyer gives a particularly memorable turn, however, as the reckless antagonist whose devil-may-care attitude towards the marriage he's disrupting or the carnage he may cause through the phenomenon is brilliantly engaging.
Strangers in the Dunes benefits from a strong production, with well placed music enhancing the scenes and tweaking the tension, as well as good editing that keeps the pace feeling like an unpredictable tide, perfectly complementing the film's tone and atmosphere. By keeping the cast and location limited, the indie movie is also able to fully immerse the viewer into the tense aspects of the plot without getting jumbled up with unnecessary exploits and/or distractions elsewhere. It's a film with few but well-played cards in its hand.
Fans of tense thrillers, smart horrors, and even grounded science fiction are likely to find some level of enjoyment in Bushman's exploitative coalition of genres. Just don't throw yourself in too recklessly, as these dunes aren't all the same and there's only so many times you can come back from them unscathed.