There can be no surprise with the movie “Stalker” that the tale is going to feature one individual stalking another. Can you possibly imagine the disappointment if there wasn’t? Why would you call it “Stalker,” what sense would it make? None. None at all.
Of course, just because there is a stalking in a movie called “Stalker,” that doesn’t automatically mean the movie makes much sense. Directed by Tyler Savage, this particular one doesn’t.
The film, which is written by Savage and Dash Hawkins, tells the tale of Andy Escobedo (Vincent Van Horn), who has just moved to Los Angeles from Dallas after a bad breakup. Not knowing anyone in the city, he goes to a dive bar one night where he picks up a woman, Sam (Christine Ko), and they head back to her place. An issue arises with their ride share driver, Roger (Michael Joplin), who starts stalking Andy and things get weird.
Sure, at first it’s just some pretty basic stuff with Roger – “accidentally” running into Andy at a coffee shop, convincing Andy to go out for drinks another time, that kind of thing. But, soon enough, it’s breaking into Andy’s apartment, hacking his internet connection, setting up webcams. Then, there’s the utter destruction of Andy’s career and life that takes place.
Without question, what happens to Andy, this ruining of everything, is horrifying. No one deserves to go through what he does. One of the problems with how it’s all presented in the film is that we’re never invested in Andy or his life. Things happen and they’re awful, but we’re never drawn into this man and his world before things take a turn for the worse. Beyond that, we know that Roger is going to be a bad guy from the beginning (again, it’s right there in the title of the movie), and so we keep looking for ways that Andy should have known far sooner to bail on the relationship. Those ways are numerous and every moment Andy doesn’t ghost Roger feels more silly than the last.
It would be incorrect to say that there is no build in the severity of what Andy undergoes during the movie. There is, without question, a ratcheting up of Roger’s horrific nature and the things through which he puts Andy. However, having that severity build isn’t the same as building the tension, or story, in the movie, and those elements are lacking. It takes so very long for “Stalker” to get where we all know it’s going and then it doesn’t do very much once it’s arrived.
Worse still, there is from time to time, almost a lack of enthusiasm the movie has for its own material. When it gives us moments like Andy finally (and way too late) going to the police station for help, the way that visit unfolds is almost a parody. The police end up mocking this poor man in a way that is starkly contrasted to the rest of the proceedings. The movie, save this scene at the police station, takes place in the real world. This one, however, does not and the contrast is jarring.
Perhaps we are to understand the scene as Andy’s fever dream of what the world has become—and he definitely has nightmares in the movie—but such an argument seems like a stretch. It is a moment we are all expecting to see, and have all already worked out just why the police won’t be able to help, so to do something we don’t see coming with the moment could be interesting and there’s something admirable in going for it. The results, however, are not. They only serves to undercut the tale and pull the audience further away from Andy.
In fact, on the whole “Stalker” doesn’t work. The story is thin, the events are only nominally engaging, and there is little reason to be invested with any of the characters. Clueing us in that there is going to be a stalker is okay, but the very ways in which the dynamic between the three leads play out fails to either surprise or cause audience investment, and that is not.
My best advice: if someone keeps following you around and wants to be friends but you have a bad feeling about them, listen to your gut. Avoid being a horror cliché. If only Andy had done the same.
photo credit: Vertical Entertainment