Updated: Sep 2, 2020
Directed by: #JohnGiorgio
Written by: #MichelleLewis
The Stalker, directed by John Giorgio, follows Steve (Chad Ayers) and Wendy (Virginia Vogt) Hamilton, as they flee with their two sons to a lake house in hopes to avoid a mysterious stalker who’s hellbent on revenge. The indie feature is a throwback to the low-budget slashers of the 1980s, the influences of which it wears on its sleeve, both for better and worse.
Director Giorgio helms his feature debut well with his shot composition allowing for a lot of depth in the frame. Characters will often appear in the background of shots, whether it be to create tension or to pass information on to the viewer. This framing allows for some great visual storytelling as the audience is trusted to figure things out for themselves. However, these engaging visual moments are undercut by scenes that feature heavy expository dialogue, particularly in the opening half of the film.
Giorgio has clearly taken inspiration from the 80s slasher sub-genre, as well as from John Carpenter, whose influence is felt throughout. From the bold title cards and stalker point-of-view shots to the eerie synth and piano score from Jonathon Montemayor, the film pays homage to classics of the genre, such as Halloween (1978) and Friday the 13th (1980). If not for being so polished, the film would feel like it’s from the era of movies to which it’s paying tribute.
However, much like the 80s slashers themselves, The Stalker is not without its faults. These mostly come through the writing, which delivers a familiar story that you’ve seen a dozen times over. Aspects of the narrative are executed well, such as Wendy’s fear over her stalker resulting in her increased paranoia. Unfortunately, there are a couple of plot threads that take up a significant portion of the short runtime but serve little purpose other than to up the body count, with older son Hayden’s (Jimmy Ace Lewis) late-night party venture being one such example. While these deviations keep the pacing steady, they ultimately lead nowhere and feel like a waste of time. Meanwhile, more interesting plot elements that are made to feel important early on are left to the wayside without real resolution.
Chad Ayers is the stand out actor of the film, with his concern and desperation coming through in a quality performance. The family overall are a likeable bunch thanks to their chemistry with one another as they come across as a believable unit, particularly during the scenes in which they’re all together. Matthew Ewald too gives a committed performance in what is a complicated role as he manages to be suitably intimidating.
The film treads a fine line between being purposely over-the-top and genuinely suspenseful, with the intention being tricky to distinguish at times. Some aspects are more obviously comical, such as Troy Fromin’s overtly creepy pizza delivery man, whereas most of the final act comes off as hammy. The conclusion is distressing in parts but leans into being comical as it drags on. While it remains entertaining nonetheless, it’s unclear whether this tone was intentional.
Overall, The Stalker is a by the numbers 80s slasher homage that succeeds and fails in equal measure. While the story clichés and side-tracks may entertain some, they will be all too familiar to others. That being said, the film is well shot and paced, with the titular villain causing enough havoc along the way to keep viewers engaged. It’s a fun, albeit flawed, slasher throwback that embraces the tropes of the genre, and is sure to appeal to those with a soft spot for the video nasties era.