This week’s film discussion: The stalker edition

Single White Female

Release date:24 October 1992(South Korea)

What would happen if a friend slowly starts turning into you and takes over your whole life? SWF explores the reality of a stalker taking over a person’s identity, remaining one of the most iconic and scary stalker films ever released. Allison, a naïve woman who has followed her boyfriend to New York finds out he is cheating on her. After kicking him out she places a classified ad for a roommate and finds Hedra, a socially awkward woman with a seemingly warm personality. The two hit it off right away and Hedra moves in.

After this, chaos ensues as Hedra tries to be Allison. Directed by Barbet Schroeder (Our Lady of Assasins, Murder by Numbers) the cinematography style of Luciano Tovoli was used to bring this film to life. Tovoli has an incredible sense for filming women and used mirrors on set in a way which made the lighting absolutely extraordinary. The story plays with an interesting concept. What extent of imitation is flattery and what is just weird? I like how the story slowly builds up this concept rather than launching it all at once, realistically portraying how this situation would actually play out. Hedra starts off wearing similar clothes and peeking creepily into rooms before she moves on to more twisted pursuits.

The character of Allison was of some annoyance as she easily forgives a cheating boyfriend, without a second thought making her seem weak in character and inconsistent to how most people would react to this situation. Sound is employed well, especially in the sinister ringing of the phone. Low angle shots of Allison’s apartment building represent her move to the big city as it is surrounded by tall skyscrapers. Jennifer Jason Leigh portrays a creepy stalker well adding to the believability of Hedra. I did not care much for Bridget Fonda’s performance as Allison, it seemed somewhat flat but perhaps the character wasn’t very well developed in the script as more time was spent on developing Hedra.

If you get past the annoying main character of Allison, you can appreciate the care that has been taken to portray a stalker wanting to take over someone’s life.

Rating :3/5

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Swim Fan

Release Date: 19 August 2002

Ben, a popular student on the swim team has a promising career and a lovely girlfriend. That is until he meets Madison, a new student at his school. After cheating on his girlfriend with Madison, he tells her nothing more can happen. However Madison does not like taking no for an answer. This was directed by John Polson (Siam Sunset, Hide and Seek) who took this on as a project from Michael Douglas’s company Further Films as the idea interested him.

This film has a very similar stalker vibe to SWF as Madison plans to ruin Ben’s life. The story was very basic with not a lot more to it. The action shots with the character thought explanations and quick cuts make for good cinematography and enhance the desperate situation and feelings of guilt Ben feels. Erika Christenson brings creepy stalker Madison to life and is the most interesting character in this film. Jesse Bradford (Ben) and Shiri Appleby (Amy) don’t really do anything interesting with their acting that adds any depth to the plot.

This film was quite basic and wasn’t twisted enough for my liking. For developed characters and a more engaging story try Fatal Attraction or SWF talked about above.

Rating:2/5

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Creep

Release date: 14th July 2015 (United Kingdom)

I kept reading that this film was amazing, also backed up by the myriad of YouTubers that recommended it. After watching I came to realise this was a found footage masterpiece that lives up to it’s name. Aaron answers a classified ad to follow a man around as his videographer for the day. As the day gets more and more unsettling, his options to leave the remote lake house become more limited.

Directed by Patrick Kack-Brice (The Overnight,Corporate, Animals) this was filmed for over a year and a half consisting of a script outline, Brice rolling the cameras and Mark performing. As Patrick draws people to him and reflects this through a camera lens, Mark and Patrick wanted to see what would happen if you combined that need for affection from people with a ‘President of the student council mentality’, essentially about shifting your personality to get what you want, a characteristic of a sociopath. They also incorporated an idea that Mark Duplass had of a person with cancer creating a video for their loved ones which they added to this film. Kack-Brice additionally cameos as Aaron, also showcasing his talents as an actor.

I had only ever seen Mark Duplass in a comedy/romantic comedy setting (Safety Not Guaranteed, Blue Jay) but never in a horror film . That said he is a fantastic actor, bringing  a believability to Josef. This is another film that shows how much can be done with very few actors and settings. I am a big fan of such films as they usually deliver on character development and story. There is not one line of wasted dialogue in this, everything adding to the plot in some way or another.

The found footage format makes the film all the more scary, suspenseful and unsettling. While jump scares are overused they worked well , showing us how Aaron’s world is turned upside down by what he encounters. Props are utilised well to the point that you will not think Peach Fuzz and not see a creepy wolf mask in your mind.

Unsettling with characters that keep you engaged and a found footage format which adds to the scare factor, Creep is an exceptional watch.

Rating : 5/5

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Creep 2

Release Date: 6th October 2017

Some people have a favourite between Creep 1 and 2 but I think both are equally amazing and would recommend doing a movie marathon of both . The second creep focuses on Sara, a Youtuber who interviews people with shocking stories. When she responds to a classified ad for a videographer she doesn’t realise what she is in for. Also directed by Patrick Kack-Brice, this sequel focused on inserting a believable character in this world that would make sense. Sara has her  own motivations for being there, while also passing off the fear Aaron felt in the first movie  to the audience( We have met this character before and know what he is capable of)

Desiree Akhavan brings Sara to life as a complex character who has seen it all. Duplass did not give any of his intentions away which added to the creepy aspects of it as we never know what he will do next, bringing an unsettling unpredictability. It’s all about getting to know Duplass’s character through the character of Sara and her experiences with him. Their on screen chemistry is amazing as Akhavan and Duplass are  both writers and film makers who like and understand each other.

Both Creep 1 and 2 are more about the dialogue and character development than the cinematography. However the opening scene which had the camera in the stuffed wolf was a unique way to set the scene. The soundtrack in the opening scene was impactful , as was the dialogue throughout. The use of found footage to create such intricate characters is ground-breaking as you have the feeling of delving into someone’s mind through footage. It has a hint of comedy among the horrific scenes that unfold which also makes it unique.

I highly recommend viewing this masterful film after Creep 1 to get the full experience.

Rating:5/5

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The Gift

Release date:7th August 2015( United Kingdom)

This is a surprising film that delivers on it’s twists and turns. Married couple Simon and Robyn move into a new neighbourhood for a fresh start. Simon runs into Gordo, an old acquaintance from high school and Robyn suggests they invite him over for dinner. The Gift plays with a very engaging plot that you would expect in your daily life as it is realistic to run into old high school acquaintances after many years. Directed by Joel Edgerton who is also Gordo in the film, The Gift was inspired by the revelations/twist element ingrained in the movie Old Boy. He has tried to represent characters that occupy the grey area as opposed to simply good or bad. Rebecca Hall portrays as Robyn, a woman who has her own demons rather than being the perfect wife which ends up making her stronger.

The dialogue is thought-provoking and reflects the character’s personalities with every word that is uttered, contrasting polite, empathetic Robyn to brash, rude and arrogant Simon. I didn’t feel there were a lot of interesting camera techniques, just enough so we can gauge character’s reactions from closeups. Very thought provoking themes of bullying and the power of rumours are explored, showing what would happen if you confronted that person who said hurtful things about you in high school.

It was interesting subject matter made more believable through performances from Rebecca Hall, Jason Bateman and Joel Edgerton. Bateman certainly showcases that there is more to his character than the easy- going family man he usually portrays, Hall and Edgerton’s characters representing the effect being a bully has on a person’s life. It begs the question- does it really go away after high school or just get worse?

Definitely recommend as one of the better stalker thrillers that are out there at the moment.

Rating: 4.5/5

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Be my Cat: A Film for Anne

Release Date:1st March 2015(Portugal)

This is the best stalker film I have ever seen. An intricate plot sees a major Anne Hathaway fan run auditions trying to convince Anne to be in his new film. This is found footage of this super fan’s auditions of three actresses at a hotel as he tries to make a film for Anne.

It made me feel scared, shocked, and shaken to the core to be part of this viewing experience and found that every detail, camera angle, conversation, reaction left an impact. Adrian is unpredictable while also acting like such a nice guy ,bringing inconsistencies to his actions throughout.

The less you know the better your viewing experience of this- trust me

Rating:5/5

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Ratter

Release Date: 24th January 2015( Slamdance Film Festival)

I was surprised how much this film scared me and made me feel relieved I never went to university in a different city by myself. Emma, a college student moves to New York to start a new life. When strange things start happening with her email accounts  she starts to question if someone is watching her. Directed by Brandon Kramer, this is the only film he has done apart from Webcam which is a video short covering the same topic. He got his idea from a friend who had their webcam go on and off on it’s own. Kramer thought someone might be watching and researched if this could be a possibility. He found that webcams in fact can be hacked and wanted to tell the story. Once he did he even got attention from the FBI. He decided to put his audience in the perspective of the stalker, causing discomfort and shiftiness, something I definitely felt when watching this from my laptop. Brandon has conveyed this film has helped  change people’s behaviour with a great many covering webcams after watching this.

This definitely brings a lot of paranoia around living alone and how easily someone can be targeted by cyber stalking. Filmed through the webcam of Emma’s computer we view her life through this cyber stalker’s creepy lens and get taken along for the ride. A lot of freeze camera is used to represent the reality of a shaky Internet connection and  Skype calls, making it very authentic.

The closeups of objects make us familiar with Emma’s surroundings, helping the viewer get to know her. Other characters are only secondary. Ashley Benson’s acting delivers a relatable character that is trying to have a normal life and start over. We get to know Emma to a great extent through this and realise she is just like any of us – wanting to have a good life, career, nice friends, a fun relationship. She doesn’t deserve to be a target, she deserves to live her life. The final scene is a thrilling showdown that shouldn’t be missed.

If you want to feel more insecure about your laptop webcam, watch this film. This is an extraordinary journey that should be experienced.

Rating:5/5

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For my next post I will covering a few films from the BFI London Film Festival 2020.

Check out the line up:https://www.bfi.org.uk/london-film-festival/strands/feature-films

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