The Dark Stranger has a fantastic concept – and delivers on many levels – but some real trouble in the acting department is its downfall.

The Dark Stranger 2015 posterWhen I first heard about the concept of The Dark Stranger, I was immediately intrigued. Animation combined with horror can often be a very effective way to get serious messages across.

As it turns out, the animations parts of The Dark Stranger do indeed work very well. So much so that I would’ve liked to see even more. Personally, it reminded me of both Sin City and The Nightmare Before Christmas, which are some pretty good associations.

Still, the overall movie wasn’t as good of an experience as the above might indicate. The problem is very clearly in the acting department. I mean, there were some seriously cringe-worthy moments, where the lines are forced and delivered so flat that you don’t know whether you want to laugh or cry.

If you’ve ever read a review by yours truly before, you’ll know I very rarely find that the actors are to blame for bad movies. Usually, I believe the script is to blame more than some poor actor being forced to speak terrible lines. In this case however, it’s more of a 50/50 deal, since the script also has some serious issues.

The Dark Stranger - still - Katie Findlay and Stephen McHattie

To be fair, I do want to mention Enrico Colantoni (Person of Interest), Stephen McHattie (The Strain and Pay the Ghost) and Mark O’Brien (known from TV shows such as Hannibal and Halt and Catch Fire), who all did very well in The Dark Stranger. Especially Mark O’Brien, who was charming and believable in every scene. The problem with the acting is very specifically with the lead character played by Katie Findlay.

I don’t know what the Hell happened, but she goes from having a few great scenes, to falling completely flat in the next. Findlay has played key roles in TV shows like How to Get Away with Murder and The Killing, and usually I really like her. She often plays troubled – and yes, pretty annoying – characters, but she has done so well. In this movie, she really doesn’t.

At its core, The Dark Stranger is about mental illness and how it feels to be a prisoner of your own mind. It that sense it’s very similar to the plot of Lights Out, which is playing in movie theaters right now. However, the big difference between the two is that while Lights Out has an amazingly performing Maria Bello, The Dark Stranger has a very underwhelming Katie Findlay, who fails to deliver in some key scenes.

Canadian filmmaker Chris Trebilcock both wrote and directed The Dark Stranger, which is his feature film debut. He has previously made several short films, and with this feature he managed to get several of the more familiar faces from Canada on board. Something that definitely helps his movie reach a wider audience. And I do feel that there’s huge potential for Trebilcock (including an almost campy sounding last name). I just hope he’ll consider a co-writer next time around to help him get the script to a better level.

The Dark Stranger animation still

Because I do find The Dark Stranger has a very interesting visual concept – along with a relevant and important story about mental illness – I would recommend watching it. However, if you like the story, you should also really watch Lights Out and enjoy Maria Bello’s portrait of someone battling inner demons.

The Dark Stranger is out on VOD now!


Director: Chris Trebilcock
Writer: Chris Trebilcock
Cast: Katie Findlay, Stephen McHattie, Enrico Colantoni, Mark O’Brien, Alex Ozerov, Jennifer Dale


Haunted by a terrifying spirit out of her graphic novel, a young artist struggles to overcome her psychosis before it destroys her.

I write reviews and recaps on Heaven of Horror. And yes, it does happen that I find myself screaming, when watching a good horror movie. I love psychological horror, survival horror and kick-ass women. Also, I have a huge soft spot for a good horror-comedy. Oh yeah, and I absolutely HATE when animals are harmed in movies, so I will immediately think less of any movie, where animals are harmed for entertainment (even if the animals are just really good actors). Fortunately, horror doesn't use this nearly as much as comedy. And people assume horror lovers are the messed up ones. Go figure!
Karina "ScreamQueen" Adelgaard
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