Eli Roth Presents The Stranger [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Shout! Factory
Review written by and copyright: Anthony Arrigo (31st October 2015).
The Film

There’s only one thing worse than making a film using a tired genre subject: making a boring film using a tired genre subject. Vampires (like zombies) have been done to death a thousand and one times over; a break from cinema would do them some good. Filmmakers, however, don’t seem so inclined to agree; continuing to pump out one derivative tale after the next. There have been a few exceptions to the rule in recent years, but by and large most are forgettable. So, too, is “The Stranger” (2014), a dreadfully boring tale of “diseased blood” presented by the media-appointed King of Horror, Eli Roth. Roth has been busy way down south, in Chile, where he works with local filmmakers to make movies “the Hollywood way” in South America. While the ambition and focus on international talent is commendable, so far the fruit of their combined labor hasn’t produced anything approaching good, let alone great.

A mysterious stranger, Martin (Cristobal Tapia Montt), arrives in a small town up in (clearly not) Canada, where he’s gone in search of his wife. He learns she’s dead just before running afoul of a local gang of hoodlums, who beat him within an inch of his life. He befriends a young boy who helps him recover, but eventually he is drawn into a conflict with the head thug, Caleb (Ariel Levy) and his corrupt cop father, Lt. De Luca (Luis Gnecco), who are about to make his stay in town very unpleasant. It seems that Martin possesses the unique ability to cure people with his blood; however, Martin is convinced his blood is toxic and should be avoided at all costs. When both sides of the fight are in need of a medical miracle, the town’s new stranger finds himself in high demand.

The problems here are so numerous it’s overwhelming. The biggest: setting your film in Canada, when it is incredibly clear neither the landscape nor the actors are remotely Canadian. Why not just set it in Chile? What’s worse, it is evident none of the actors could speak without heavy accents so the film simply dubs in voices that can perfectly enunciate the dialogue. It’s like watching an old spaghetti western, only with far, far less charm. It would have been preferable to set the film in Chile and have everyone speaking their native tongue.

Have I mentioned virtually nothing happens in this film? Martin, our lead, sleepwalks from one scene to the next with all the energy of a three-toed sloth. I understand he’s technically dead on the inside, but does he have to act so sluggish on the outside, too? There are times where I swear he’s sleeping, standing up, with his eyes open. Coincidentally, there were many moments when I was probably doing the same, albeit reclined on a couch.

Some of the concepts shown here might have been interesting in more capable hands. Director Guillermo Amoedo allows all 93 minutes of his film to creep by at a glacial pace, never once imbuing a scene with energy or tension or something to keep audiences invested in spending a chunk of their time watching his cure for insomnia.

Video

The film’s 2.40:1 1080p 24/fps AVC MPEG-4 encoded picture is at least visually pleasing. Colors, though desaturated to a degree, look mostly natural. Contrast is decently strong. Fine detail looks best in closeups; some medium or wide shots tend to appear slightly soft. It’s a fairly average digital image – neither impressive nor terrible.

Audio

The best thing about this film was the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound track (48kHz/24-bit), which is enveloping during many scenes. Surrounds are put to use by carrying subtle cues, allowing for a nice sense of directionality in regard to effects. A couple of more boisterous moments allow for the low end to put in some work. Dialogue is clear and well-balanced, though again it’s such an obvious(ly bad) ADR job that it can be distracting often. An English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 surround track is also included. Subtitles are available in English.

Extras

There are a few decent extras here, including a short film, featurette, theatrical trailers and photo gallery.

“The Fourth Horseman” short film (1080p) runs for 10 minutes and 45 seconds, this little film tied in with the film’s blood disease.

“Welcome to Chilewood” (1080p) is a featurette that runs for 6 minutes and 24 seconds, Eli Roth and his cohorts talk about their ambition to make big films in a place not often known for its cinema – Chile.

A U.S. theatrical trailer (1080p) runs for 1 minute and 41 seconds.

A Chile theatrical trailer (1080p) runs for 2 minutes and 10 seconds.

There is a photo gallery (1080i) that runs for 3 minutes and 29 seconds.

Packaging

The single disc comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keep case.

Overall

The only person sleepier than our lead Martin was me as I tried to watch this snoozer.

The Film: D- Video: B+ Audio: B Extras: C Overall: D+

 


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