Jack is pushed past the brink of his stalking obsession when he decides to break into Emily's home to take what he wants by force. However, his plans for her pain and his pleasure come unhinged when he wakes up to find himself bleeding and bound to a chair in her kitchen. For one night Jack and Emily engage in a twisted and thrilling courtship of the sexes that leads one to wonder which one of them will survive the night.
It could be something so monumentally amazing that it leaves the viewer utterly speechless – unsure of how to go on with their daily lives following a remarkable cinematic journey into a perfectly crafted and executed fictional film world. As for the second possibility?
John Jarratt’s (star of the Wolf Creek franchise) directing debut; StalkHer.
He co-directed the film with Kaarin Fairfax. And the two of them are the lead actors – opposite one another in the main roles.
The film is billed as a romantic comedy thriller and unless you’re Shaun of the Dead’s Edgar Wright, you’re generally going to fail in hitting all of the correct buttons to make each of those disparate genres properly gel. StalkHer is utterly painful and regrettably conceived.
Nurse Emily (Fairfax) returns to her empty home and prepares for bed. Co-worker Jack (Jarratt) breaks into her house where his intentions (with several surgical tools in hand) are vicious. Thing is, Emily is not exactly who she seems, and so – over the course of the night – they’ll challenge each other physically, sexually, morally and emotionally – until the dawn’s early light reveals their true histories, intentions and problems.
The film is basically all in one location and might have been more entertaining as a stage-play (which is not an unreasonable observation – as some of the piece reminded me of Ariel Dorfman’s Death and the Maiden).
Other than some flashbacks and quick-cut reveals (taking place mainly in the hospital where Jack and Emily work) the film’s terribly un-cinematic. Camera movements/angles and lighting were flat and boring. And some editing choices (when Jack is drugged) were simply distracting and frankly, obnoxious.
The play idea goes even further when looking at the blocking of the actors. The little action in the film (since Jack is tethered through most of it) has Emily getting up from her chair, doing something in the kitchen and then sitting down in the same chair opposite Jack. Then she gets up, does another household chore and sits down again. This goes on through the entire film, and if I were watching this as a stage-play, I would be asking the actor and directors, “What is the motivation for movement?” I can understand that with such limited movement, directors Jarratt and Fairfax needed to keep things from becoming stagnant in this one-location story, but how about getting a better and more inspired script which makes better use of the space and allows actor movements to actually make sense?
I have never been so distracted by a soundtrack in my long history of watching films. It is not exaggeration when I say that at least 95% of the film has either the score or some sort of rock/pop track backing the action. It felt as though the soundtrack was trying to make up for the film’s other shortcomings. And the score itself was totally inconsistent, not helping with the film’s overall tone. To top things off, the mix was so terrible, that the song which is supposed to take a supporting role to the actor’s dialogue, instead completely overshadows it. On numerous occasions, I found myself leaning into the screen and actually squinting to try and understand what the actors were saying.
Not that it mattered. This is one of the worst screenplays I’ve ever had the displeasure of experiencing and the dialogue was atrocious. Double entrendres at every turn (none of which were clever) and the bitter back and forth “battle of the sexes” felt repetitive and certainly uninspired. There was nothing likeable about either character, and the level of “I don’t care about any of these people”, certainly reached new heights (at least in my experience).
There’s also the painful overuse of the “eff” word. Any writer worth their salt will use curse words sparingly. Such terms lose their power if used too often, and basically every other word out of both character’s mouth was some form of the “eff” word. Not to mention a tired overuse of the “c-word” – referencing a part of the female anatomy. Certainly in the case of some characters, extreme cursing may be part of that person’s make-up — that’s how they are. But the constant cursing here, just feels lazy.
The film’s big twist is of no interest, but it also doesn’t help that by the time I reached that point in the film, I was already so bored, irritated and beyond caring – that it couldn’t have worked even if it had worked (make sense?) The fight sequence and verbal sparring were reminiscent of sequences in Mr. & Mrs. Smith – but unlike that film, StalkHer failed to engage.
John Jarratt is known for his now iconic role as Outback psychopath Mick Taylor. And while his appearances in that film series (and now television series) offered him the chance to charmingly dismember unsuspecting victims, he’s absolutely dreadful in his role as Jack in StalkHer. He’s not believable and he’s not funny. Fairfax as his scene partner is no better. Add into the mix, the absence of any chemistry between the leads and you’re not in for an easy ride.
I truly don’t know what StalkHer was trying to be. I don’t think the filmmakers knew what they wanted it to be. But I can’t recommend that you (my avid readers of 2) waste your precious time while these writers/directors/actors stumble around and try to figure things out. Don’t be the guinea pig here.
I’ve already taken that bullet for you.
A pointless story, paired with awful dialogue and sub-par performances will make it very easy for this reviewer (and any potential victims – excuse me – viewers) to easily toss StalkHer into the “avoid at all costs” pile of forgettable films.
I’ve only quoted the late, great Roger Ebert once before, with “I hated, hated, hated this movie”. But with what I’ve just experienced tonight, this harsh quote is more than necessary to properly describe my feelings. A ½ star just isn’t quite low enough – but that is all that is allowed. Ugh.
StalkHer is available on DVD/VOD.