Dead Northern 2022 Festival Review – The Stranger (World Premiere)

Moving on from the murder of her husband, Amanda (Jennifer Preston) and her teenage daughter, Karli (Isabella Percival) up and move to a tranquil bed and breakfast situated within the rural countryside. However, their tragedies are only furthered by the arrival of Kyle (Damien Ashley), a mysterious guest.  Kyle begins to go into a downward spiral, haunted by a sinister force.

The Stranger tightly grasps onto the fragility of a broken family as a vessel for unearthly horror to seep through and thrive amidst the already brittle dynamics. Through unmatched writing that puts the audience through one of the most nerve shredding 80 minutes of their life, through to the startlingly graphic effects, The Stranger is a wickedly cruel feat that should not be missed. 

The directorial team behind The Stranger is made up by Mike Clarke and Paul Gerrard, who respectively join forces to conjure a bone chilling tour de force that was entirely shot in the UK. Clarke’s keen eye for thrilling filmmaking is clear in many of his previous projects, including the acclaimed A Hand to Play (2013), which featured Hellraiser’s Doug Bradley, Paper and Plastic (2013), and Love’s Innocence Lost (2016). Gerrard is infamous for his originality, peppering dystopian, mind-augmenting themes throughout his work as seen in his conceptual designs for The Hole in the Ground (2019), The Dark and the Wicked (2020), and The Reckoning (2020). 

Their track record of outstanding works is made even more prominent thanks to The Stranger, which helps lead the way for modern, indie horror. Every strain within the film, whether that be the mystifying visuals, the looming sense of dread, or the sensational performances by Ashley, Preston, and Percival, the film captivates. 

The invasion of the body and space is a prodigious element in macabre cinema, with the threat of one’s annexe being claimed, alerting an immediate spike of worry in even the most tenured of audiences. The melancholic air of loss that Amanda and Kari emit due to their recent experience of death adds to The Stranger’s enigma, combating the refusal to follow in the footsteps of generic invasion movies with formulaic backstories. Instead, Clarke and Gerrard channel the unexpected at every approach possible. No matter what direction The Stranger insinuates, there’s always an unexpected corkscrew in the road. 

The vigorous leaps and bounds that the film chronicles is assisted by the setting, atmosphere, cinematography, sound, lighting, and effects. The isolated restraints that the wilderness holds is a tool within its own right. Gerrard and Clarke fully take advantage of the vastness to further place the characters in an even more vulnerable state. Encapsulated by the camera that surveys the emptiness is the eerily dark tone that washes over the film like a grim shadow of death, straight away setting the mood for melancholy and menacing antics to prosper. As the film reaches the moment of truth, a barrage of sheer sensation, both emotional and psychical, of panic is unwillingly forced. 

The Stranger is a symphony of horrific excellence, dominating the screen and marking its place as one of 2022’s most exciting features. 

Check out the film and much more at this years festival, tickets here

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