By David Dent
Here’s a buddy turned stalker film that has one foot in the 1990s and the other firmly in the 21st century.
Vincent Van Horn is Andy, a teacher recently relocated from Austin, Texas to LA following a breakup with his girlfriend; it’s an area he doesn’t know at all. One evening, nursing a drink in a dive bar, he meets Sam (Christine Ko), a location finder for music festivals. They’re two lonely souls who hit it off immediately. After the bar Sam invites him home; she has already pre-booked a Ryde trip, the cab being driven by Roger (Michael Lee Joplin) who comes on a bit over friendly with Andy.
A couple of days later Andy, who has landed a job as a tutor to a disaffected teen inseparable from his phone, meets Roger on the street; they agree to go for drinks. But the day after, when Andy fails to return Roger’s calls, the latter acts hurt. Attempting to patch things up, it becomes clear that there is something very wrong with Roger. Andy decides not to share his concerns with Sam, conscious that he wants to keep her out of it. But Roger ratchets up the craziness, Andy’s life spins out of control, and Sam ends up involved anyway.
It would have been so easy for Savage’s second feature, after the brooding 2017 movie ‘Inheritance’, to have played this on the surface formulaic thriller straight down the line. But if he were to do that, he’d be centring Sam, one of the only women in the piece, as the focus of aggression, rather than Andy.
But Roger’s subterfuge, which is made apparent pretty early on in the movie, is only one element of dissociation which Andy faces, if the most extreme. Moving from Texas’s still relatively small capital city to the sprawling Los Angeles truly places him in the lion’s den, and any attempt at civility on Andy’s part to shopkeepers or potential employers is met with off-handedness and indifference. Only Sam’s friendliness seems to be the olive branch that LA passes to him.
‘Blinders’ is often tense beyond belief and Andy’s victimisation is often painful to behold, even when it’s borderline darkly amusing, and all three of the central characters are perfectly cast, adrift as they are in an inhospitable location; in particular Andy’s apartment never has the chance to progress beyond ‘unique fixer upper’ status.
Stalker is set for release on 21st May 2021.