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The Stranger (Blu-ray Review)

StrangerEli Roth (Cabin Fever, Hostel, The Green Inferno) presents the riveting directorial debut of writer Guillermo Amoedo (Aftershock, The Green Inferno, Knock Knock) with this macabre and gruesome tale set in a small Canadian town. Scream Factory, in partnership with IFC Midnight, will bring The Stranger, the tale of a mysterious man whose search for his wife plunges the community into a bloodbath, to Blu-ray and DVD on October 6th, 2015. The Stranger comes loaded with bonus features, including Amoedo’s short film The Fourth Horseman, the new featurette Welcome to Chilewood, theatrical trailers and more. Fans can pre-order their copies now by visiting ShoutFactory.com.

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Film 

A mysterious stranger, Martin, arrives seeking to kill his wife Ana who suffers from a very dangerous disease that makes her as addicted to human blood as he is. But when he discovers that Ana has been dead for a couple of years, Martin decides to commit suicide to definitively eradicate this peculiar disease which imbues his blood with healing powers. Before he can do it, however, Martin is brutally attacked by three local thugs, lead by the son of a corrupt police lieutenant, Caleb. The incident suddenly initiates a chain reaction that plunges the community into a bloodbath.

The Stranger is a weird sorta vampire tale that wants to be a different one by holding back on all its vampire goodness and trying to be “different” with things.  Its a very slow, dour movie that plods along feeling that its much longer than its already short run time is.  There are some good scenes and moments that work, but its not strung together in a way that moves.  And no, its not the slow burn aspect that isn’t appealing.  Even when the film kicks into gear for the final act, and you sit up in your seat like “Okay, HERE we go”, it still feels another bit lengthy and taking a while to get to its point.

For quite a bit of the early going of this film, it seemed familiar to me and I couldn’t put my finger on it, and then finally it hit me.  This movie was kind of a Let The Right One In knock off for its first act or so.  In terms of vampire stories it most resembled, the early going were very much like that film.  I think that’s what this film wanted to do with its plotting and pacing, but couldn’t muster up the magic that was captured in the Swedish modern horror classic.  But, hey, at least they are looking up to something good to try and follow.

This isn’t a bad film, its just a bit too dour and too slow for its own good.  It wants to be something different in the vampire genre, but its not doing enough or its surprises aren’t all that exciting or shocking (It withholds acknowledging what it is for quite a while).  However, the film does feature some good effects work, well directed sequences and solid performances (The town sheriff aside. Woof).  This one seemed to come with some acclaim (Not via Rotten Tomatoes, mind you) from the horror community, we’ll see how it is when its given to the fans to see.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Clarity/Detail:  This is a good enough picture that I still feel could have looked a little better.  That said, its well above average.  Detail on the gory make-up effects in the film is top notch, especially when well lit.  Things like mustache hair follicles and surfaces textures come through quite nicely.

Depth:  Dimension are good.  There is a decent spacing between character, objects and the environments.  Movements are smooth with minimal blurring.

Black Levels: Blacks are really deep and detail can be hidden in scenes on clothing, hair and surfaces.

Color Reproduction:  This is a cold movie that tries to present itself a bit dour.  Blood is a stronger bolder color and there is a green filter to most scenes.

Flesh Tones:  Flesh tones er of on the side of being colder.  Facial detail is strong, feature nice looks at texture on tattoos, wrinkles, bruises, chapped lips and the like.

Noise/Artifacts: Features a little bit of ghosting during some quick camera movements in darkly lit scenes.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English, Spanish

Dynamics:  This is a solid track that more than does the trick.  Effects feel nice and attention grabbing in the mix without stepping on the vocals at all.  The score is woven in nicely, crafting a good balance on this mix.

Low Frequency Extension:  The low end sounds get a sub boost in scenes with car crashes, gun fire and pummeling people on the ground.  Even neck snaps fell just a hint of the sub.

Surround Sound Presentation:  Most of the film is front heavy, with the 3 channels taking the action back and forth and accurately depicting pitch and volume.  The rear speakers primarily provide support in the ambiance department.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Volume is ideally place.  Vocals are clear and clean.

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Extras 

The Stranger comes with reversible cover art with an alternate poster design on the back side.

Short Film: The Fourth Horseman (HD, ) – This is the flashback sequences in the movie, put together.  Probably was this film before they shot the feature.

Welcome To Chilewood (HD, 6:24) – This featurette discusses Eli Roth and the director of this film’s desire to make films in Chile and making “Chilewood”.

Theatrical Trailer U.S. (HD, 1:41) 

Theatrical Trailer Chile (HD, 2:10) 

Photo Gallery (HD, 3:29) – Features posters, production stills and behind the scenes photos.

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Summary 

The Stranger knows what it wants to do and what films it wants to be held up against, its just not strong enough for its own and is more middle of the road/average.  This Blu-ray holds up a rock solid performance though in both video and audio.  The extras leave a bit to be desired.  As is the case with some of these IFC Midnight titles, you may want to test it out via a rental before jumping in and making the purchase.

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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