dir. Tyler Savage.
There’s a scene around the half-way mark of Stalker – which screened at FrightFest 2020 under the name Blinders – where a murder is committed. It’s a typical street, a killer’s inside the house and when he strikes, his victim screams. Cut to outside, and a passer-by walks her dog, distracted by her phone.
This idea of distraction – particularly by technology and social media – is at the heart of director Savage’s delightful psycho-thriller. As the original title suggested it is a film constantly fascinated with the act of seeing – or rather not seeing – and what kind of rotten fruit this solipsism bears.
Moving from Texas to LA, tutor Andy (Vincent van Horn) is looking for a new start after his long-term relationship falls apart. On his first night in town he goes to a bar and meets Sam (Christine Ko), but on the taxi-ride back to her place the driver seems a little off. Little does Andy know that this stranger soon takes an unhealthy interest in him and begins harvesting his personal information online.
Tech-phobic horror isn’t new, though with widespread hacking, security breaches and weaponised misappropriation of personal data by Cambridge Analytica et al there is something in the zeitgeist about the vulnerability we expose ourselves to by living so much of our lives virtually. Conversely the inauthenticity to our digital existence – our lives curated to present idealised versions – perhaps betrays an inherent narcissism: albeit one that’s socially accepted. As one of Andy’s students says after examining his Instagram, perhaps he shouldn’t take so many selfies.
So if everyone’s online but everyone’s lying, the question about what is real is unclear. Taxi-driver Roger (Michael Lee Joplin) might be an Uber villain, but his repeated refrain that he hates dishonesty stings. In an age of fake news, Twitter dog-piling and endless social performance doesn’t everyone yearn for something genuine? Or are we also too blinded to see clearly?