THE DARK STRANGER: 2 STARS. “accomplished film for first time director.”
“The Dark Stranger” is one of the rare horror movies that would probably work better if the horror elements were extracted, leaving just the underlying family drama to speak for itself.
Leah Garrison (Katie Findlay) is a comic book illustrator grappling with the suicide of her artist mother. Recovering from a nervous breakdown, Leah has hallucinations and cuts herself as punishment for what she believes was her part in her mother’s death. Old wounds are reopened when art lover Randall Toth (Stephen McHattie) asks Leah’s father (Enrico Colantoni) if he can present the late mom’s paintings in an exhibition showcasing artists who battled depression. Leah hates Toth and doesn’t want her mother’s work displayed in the show. Enter the Dark Stranger, a character from Leah’s recent work. The gaunt stranger might be a metaphor for her troubled state of mind or a physical manifestation of her demons or both. Either way the stranger is a destructive force on everyone around the young artist and just happens to look like Toth.
“The Dark Stranger” is an accomplished film for first time director and writer Chris Trebilcock. I’m just not sure it accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do. As a horror film with supernatural overtones it leaves a mildly eerie aftertaste. But as a look at mental illness and the life changing effects of depression it packs a wallop. Real true scares are few and far between and the final moments of the movie are a bit too on the money but very solid performances from Findlay, Colantoni and the legendary McHattie keep things moving forward in an interesting way.