Stalker (2021)

Director: Tyler Savage

Running Time: 86 Minutes

Starring: Vincent Van Horn, Christine Ko, Michael Lee Joplin, Chase Joliet, Steph Barkley, Paula Jai Parker

In the opening moments, viewers see the Instagram stories of Andy (Vincent Van Horn), as he moves to Los Angeles with his dog. He's intent on making a fresh start after a messy break-up, yet feels isolated in this new location. Eager to make connections, he befriends a rideshare driver called Roger (Michael Lee Joplin), whose unusual behaviour becomes too uncomfortable. Andy decides to ignore him, instead focusing on a blossoming relationship with Sam (Christine Ko), only for Roger to start tormenting him.

A tightly focused tale following three characters, each are well served in the narrative and brought alive by excellent portrayals. In the lead role, Vincent Van Horn captures the loneliness and frustrations of Andy, trying to rebuild his life, only for it to become unravelled by somebody's games. Driving the narrative are the antagonistic actions of Roger, as Michael Lee Joplin captures his desire to connect, and how rejection makes his lash out in horrendous ways. Rounding things off is Christine Ko, whose layered performance ensures Sam is more than an underwritten love interest.

Co-written with Dash Hawkins, director Tyler Savage mixes contemporary issues within a nuts-and-bolts thriller. As our lead documents his life on social media, it's an effective mirror of the masks people can wear over social media, conveying false impressions that all is well. It's also a cautionary tale, detailing how the most innocuous questions can easily extract personal information, and are weaponized to forcibly access a person's accounts. These technological issues are intensified when scenes are interestingly framed, as though viewers are watching them happen on a smartphone.

These worries mount up as the familiar story plays out, yet while it takes paths which may stretch credulity, the intensity does not let up. The third act amplifies this by taking a mean-spirited turn, ensuring one won't forget how it plays out. Savage ensures your attention is firmly grasped until the credits roll, delivering an effective thriller which may shake one's trust in others.

Stalker is available on Video on Demand services from May 21st