2011 Directed by Philip Gelatt
Starring Alexandra Chandro, Nina Lisandrello, Patrick Breen & Charlie Hewson
Leo Tolstoy famously wrote “All great literature is one of two stories; a man goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town.” A stranger comes to town, for some reason it is a concept that has always captured my imagination. The unknown forces that can disrupt and shape our lives have always made me lock my doors and check my closets before I go to bed. Philip Gelatts 2011 horror film is one these stories, one that will make me use the peep hole when someone knocks on my door and never trust a man in a white seersucker suit.
The opening shot of the film sets an ominous tone that will be slowly delivered upon for the next hour and twenty minutes. The Smith family is like most in that it has a past and would prefer to keep their uncomfortable secrets hidden after all “Small towns have a long memory.” The opening twenty minutes establishes the uncomfortable nature of the Smith family. The dinner sequence is tense and hints at greater problems the family is facing. Why the hell did she lock up the knives after dinner?
When the stranger (Patrick Breen) shows up stranded, wearing a white suit, carrying a doctor’s bag and speaking with a southern accent that feels as if it were pulled from another era, they invite him in. The Stranger has arrived. That simple decision is one that will forever change the Smith family. We know where this film is heading because of that opening shot but we are waiting to discover how this group of people will get there and why?
The motivations and backstory of our characters are not given to us all at once. In fact the way we are given information is slow and deliberate. If you are patient this film it will repay you. This movie feels like a throwback to something from the 70’s and I mean that in the best possible way. This movie is limited in its scope but is still a powerful character study. Some people have complained that the reveal is not worth the wait but I argue that the tension building up to the reveal makes it worth the wait. To speak in clichés, it’s not about the destination but the journey to get there. I had mixed feelings about the ending but I loved how we got there and that defiantly counts for something.
All families are forced to deal with different levels of adversity at different times. The question that is worth examining is how much adversity can those people around you handle before they will snap? What will happen when they are truly tested?
Patrick Breen gives a performance that is nearly perfect and quite memorable. Some people might find his Tennessee Williams Serial Killer thing to be a bit too much but I for one loved it. His character feels like a force of nature. Our antagonist is an unsympathetic hurricane destroying the lives of the people who cross his path. Ever since Poltergeist 2 older, soft spoken Southern gentlemen types creep me the fuck out and Mr Breen has continued in that tradition nicely.