Fresh from its world premiere at this year’s FrightFest, Stalker is easily the best “Elevated Horror” of 2022.
The film opens with statistics that say 1 in 6 women and 1 in 19 men will be stalked in their lifetime. Of those, 1 out of 2 will be by someone they know. With those simple words, it establishes a fear many women know all too well. Claustrophobia is another common fear. Specifically when it comes to elevators. The filmmakers double down on that by trapping a young woman in a lift with someone who may or may not be following her.
In a sliding doors kind of world, the set up of two people working on the same film becoming trapped in an elevator could have been spun out as the meet-cute for a romantic comedy. However right from the outset (the film wastes no time in getting the two in the lift and the power failing) it is clear that something else is at play.
Stuart Brennan’s Daniel is clearly a shy, socially awkward individual. One who is as ill-at-ease being stuck in a confined space as they are talking to a woman. Particularly one as bold and confident as the horror film’s lead actress Rose (Sophie Skelton). Their awkward, stilted conversation to pass the time slowly reveals a sinister undertone. While Rose hardly even recognised the B-Roll cameraman, Daniel seems awfully clued up on her career, schedule and off-screen arguments. Then talk turns to the disappearance of the film’s former lead actress. A role that Rose is now playing. A lucky break or was someone pulling the strings? Orchestrating a spider’s web of intrigue and deceit to lure another fly to its inevitable fate.
Viewers with a similar sense of claustrophobia will find this a difficult film to watch/endure. The camera placing the audience right in the middle of the elevator with the protagonists, with no room to escape. The single location could have made the film feel very theatrical. However Director of Photography Simon Stollard does a fantastic job of keeping the camera moving, and making the most of the tight space to keep the momentum going and the action fresh. He also slowly moves from wide shots to more frequent close ups. The frame gradually closes in on the characters as their sense of confinement escalates.
Tensions and tempers fray and threaten to snap like the cables holding them and the elevator from plummeting to their gory demise. Watt’s sharp, tightly knitted script does a great job of ratcheting up the tension. Allowing plot points and motivations to be revealed naturally during conversation. Keeping the audience as much in the dark as the characters as to their true intentions.
Like a lift heading to the penthouse, both actors rise to the challenge. Delivering riveting performances that draw the audience in and become invested in their survival. Skelton in particular embodies her character’s final girl spirit to deliver an exciting twist on the Scream Queen formula.
Impressively marshalled by director Steve Johnson, Stalker elevates its simple premise to deliver a taut, tense, terrific thriller.
NB: Bonus points for the end credit that states, despite what you have just watched, elevators remain one of the safest forms of transport within tall buildings.
Stalker had its World Premiere at FrightFest on 28th August and comes to DVD & Digital on 10th October from Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment
Director: Steve Johnson
Stars: Sophie Skelton, Stuart Brennan, Bret Hart
Runtime: 94 minutes