Review: The Dark Stranger

A depressed artist is tormented by a vengeful spirit in The Dark Stranger. Since the tragic death of her mother, Leah Garrison (Katie Findlay) has been suffering from severe depression and agoraphobia, with her father Brendan (Enrico Colantoni) encouraging Leah to start drawing again. One day, Leah mysteriously gains the inspiration to draw a graphic novel inspired by her life, which leads to her being haunted by a mysterious dark stranger (Stephen McHattie).

The Dark Stranger is a film that combines horror and fantasy to illustrate how a young woman’s depression is affecting her life. After blaming herself for her mother’s suicide, Leah refuses to leave her home and struggles to hold off her own suicidal thoughts. Her selfish brother Toby (Alex Ozerov) hates all the attention Leah is getting from their father, while Leah does find a form of companionship through her dad’s teaching assistant Mark (Mark O’Brien).

The fantastical horror of The Dark Stranger can be seen as a metaphor of the effect having depression can have on people. In fact, the titular Dark Stranger is in many ways a physical manifestation of Leah’s depression, with it being a struggle for her to resist his temptation. The great Stephen McHattie is quite effect in the role of the Freddy Krueger-like character, who ends up being an effective antagonist. McHattie also plays the role of the helpful curator Randall Toth, who pops in late in the film to provide some exposition.

Probably one of the most impressive aspects of The Dark Stranger are various animated sequences, which tell the story of Leah’s graphic novel, which happens to parallel the events happening in her own life. It are these sequences that make The Dark Stranger much more than your average horror story, with the film also having a healthy dose of fantasy. It is probably for the animation alone that makes The Dark Stranger worth seeing.

Altogether, The Dark Stranger is a simple, yet effective, fantastical horror story, with a memorable supernatural villain.


The Dark Stranger opens today at Cineplex Yonge and Dundas

Sean Kelly Author

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described über-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).