A horror movie actress gets stuck in her hotel’s freight elevator with a seemingly shy and reserved camera man in Stalker, an ultra-lean thriller that ebbs and flows with palpable tension. It realizes the frightening scenario of being trapped in a confined space with a creepy stranger. Claustrophobia becomes the least of their problems as the elevator threatens to fall. But something about the situation triggers worse suspicions when prior events come to light. There are twists aplenty as the characters struggle to deal with their predicament and the unknown other. Audiences may see the big reveal coming, but the ride is enjoyable nonetheless.
Rose Hepburn (Sophie Skelton) arrives at her shoddy hotel late on a stormy night. There’s no one at the front desk, and the main elevator is out of service. She ends the call with her sister to figure out how to get to the room; Rose isn’t going to walk up 13 flights of stairs, after all. She decides to take the freight elevator.
A hand blocks the door before it closes. A stocky man with spectacles and bags enters the lift. Rose asks what floor, and he sheepishly requests the 14th. The elevator lurches to a sudden halt and starts to jerk. A panicked Rose presses the alarm. Nothing happens… She desperately tries the intercom. It’s broken. Her phone has no signal.
Rose & Daniel
Rose turns to the man with trepidation. She recognizes him from the movie set. Daniel (Stuart Brennan) introduces himself as a B-roll camera operator. Incredibly, he doesn’t have a phone to try and call for help. Rose and Daniel look around with unease. Their fear increases as the elevator continues to rattle. Rose begins to hyperventilate, and a stammering Daniel tries to calm her down. They might have to wait until the morning to be discovered. Rose tries light conversation to ease their discomfort. Alice, the film’s previous star, mysteriously disappeared. What does Daniel think happened to her?
Skelton transfixes as Rose. She’s an attractive woman alone with an odd man. Neither of them know where they are. Her nerves are frayed. She can’t handle small spaces for extended periods of time. Daniel isn’t exactly forthcoming; his timid personality doesn’t reassure, and his efforts to alleviate her anxiety aren’t helping. She apologizes for snapping at him. They need to work together.
Related: Here are 7 Films That Will Make You Feel Claustrophobic
Director Steve Johnson (Convergence) uses his extensive experience as a cinematographer to great effect. Stalker takes place inside the elevator with fleeting black and white flashbacks. The interaction between Rose and Daniel is the entire focus. A single set becomes tiring unless variables change, though. Fortunately, Johnson cuts to the elevator shaft and continually switches lighting. The flashing of the overhead bulb, red warning signals, and different height perspectives sell increasing danger. Environment creates the mood for actors, and Stalker creates an unnerving one in which the characters devolve with their surrounding structure. It’s all very realistic and believable.
A Wicked Climax
The film dips in the second act before a wicked climax. This may have been intentional, in order to soften the audience for heavy blows to come. The twists aren’t completely obvious, but rational thought raises skepticism, so that viewers may quickly ascertain that there’s something sinister brewing. Skelton, known primarily for the hit series Outlander, gives a gripping performance. Stalker succeeds on her capable shoulders.
Stalker is a production of Stronghold Studios. It will have a theatrical and VOD release on March 31st from Gravitas Ventures.
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