The Movie Waffler New to Amazon Prime Video - STALKER | The Movie Waffler

New to Amazon Prime Video - STALKER

stalker review
A newcomer to Los Angeles is stalked by a rideshare driver.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Tyler Savage

Starring: Vincent Van Horn, Michael Lee Joplin, Christine Ko, Dusty Sorg, Stephanie Barkley

Director Tyler Savage's Stalker belongs to that sub-genre of movies I like to call Homme Fatale thrillers. In traditional films noir, hapless men are led astray by seductive and alluring women, but in Homme Fatale thrillers it's handsome, charismatic men who ruin their lives after an initial platonic friendship - think Brad Pitt in David Fincher's Fight Club or Rob Lowe in Curtis Hanson's Bad Influence.

blinders review

Stalker gives us a twist on this format. Roger (Michael Lee Joplin), the Homme Fatale antagonist here, is neither charismatic nor handsome. Rather he's awkward and creepy, the kind of guy who seems initially harmless but soon makes you realise there's something seriously off about him. Where Edward Norton and James Spader wanted to spend as much time as possible in the company of Pitt and Lowe, our protagonist here, Andy (Vincent Van Horn), wants nothing to do with Roger. But Roger isn't about to let go of his new friend so easily.

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Transplanting himself from Dallas to Los Angeles in the wake of the breakup of a six-year relationship, Andy lucks out by meeting an attractive young woman, Sam (Christine Ko), on his first night out in the City of Angels. When she invites him back to her place, Andy's good luck is tempered by the misfortune of taking a rideshare back to Sam's, one driven by Roger. The following day, while out walking his adorable dog Juicebox, Andy bumps into Roger, who forcibly exchanges phone numbers and makes plans to meet for a drink. Within hours, Roger is bugging Andy to go drinking, and the latter gives in. The two have an affable evening of drunkenness before parting ways.

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The next morning Andy goes on a hike with Sam, during the course of which he receives multiple text messages from Roger, which grow angrier in tone the more Andy ignores them. Andy eventually decides to steer clear of Roger, but little does he know that while he's off with his new girlfriend, Roger is gaining access to his apartment, installing secret cameras and stealing his identity and bank details. Thus, Andy is subjected to an escalating campaign of terror from his wannabe buddy.

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Stalker is a welcome throwback to the character driven thrillers of the early '90s (Bad Influence, Pacific Heights, The Hand That Rocks the CradleUnlawful Entry et al), but with the addition of our very modern fear of identity theft. Roger may ultimately behave in an over-the-top manner, but he's a villain we can relate to. How many of us have initially felt sorry for someone only to find ourselves desperate to get away from their worrying attention? Like Russell Crowe in Unhinged, Roger justifies his actions by framing them as a reaction to our increasingly narcissistic society, and crumbs are dropped regarding Andy's self-centredness (the teenage boy he's tutoring points out how his Instagram account featuring nothing but selfies isn't a great look). The very fact that Savage refuses to paint Andy as a paragon of virtue makes him and his hellish situation all the more relatable.

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We may not entirely like Andy, but we identify with him closely enough to make the shocking climax all the more impactful. The twist almost feels like an act of cruelty on Savage's part, so embroiled in Andy's sweaty desperation we've become by that point. With Stalker, Savage takes a well-worn stalking storyline, adds some contemporary fears, gives us a three-dimensional protagonist and weaves a solid thriller of the sort we just don't see all that often anymore. Following his impressive debut, Inheritance, this filmmaker has established himself as an astute manipulator of millennial angst.

Stalker is on Amazon Prime Video UK now.