By: Mark Barber
Chris Trebilcock’s The Dark Stranger understands that the power of horror is derived in part not from its tonal seriousness but from its ability to confront the issues in ways that are creatively charged. Taking on the issue of depression, The Dark Stranger might take some flak for what at times feels like a facile exploration of depression. However, Trebilcock deserves praise for creatively literalizing the demons we face as a means to confront them.
Leah (Katie Findlay), the film’s protagonist, is a graphic artist suffering from clinical depression, implied to have been engendered by her artistic mother’s suicide. Her depression leads to hallucinations (or so they seem to be at first) and agoraphobia. By either manic or paranormal means, she begins to involuntarily compose a autobiographical graphic novel (these animated sequences represent the best work in the film). Then, one particular villainous character in her novel starts to take form, and begins antagonizing those closest to her.
The film generalizes (and, of course, fictionalizes) the problem of suicidal artists by linking it not to chemical imbalance in the brain, but to the film’s titular “dark stranger,” who, as we learn, possesses artists he is jealous of.
Showing off its director’s creative edge (that is sometimes over reliant on Cronenbergian body horror), The Dark Stranger commits a unique premise to a serious issue.
The Dark Stranger screens at the Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival on:
Saturday, November 28 at 4:00 p.m. @ Carlton Cinema
For more information on the festival, visit the official BITS webpage here.
Buy tickets here.
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