The words “Eli Roth Presents” before a movie title aren’t the most encouraging, and in the case of “Eli Roth Presents the Stranger” they are weirdly misleading. This brooding vampire flick from Guillermo Amoedo — who co-wrote Roth’s “The Green Inferno” — is actually sensitive, a texture that cynical schlock guru Roth studiously avoids.
That doesn’t make “The Stranger” good, just well meaning, which in its own way is problematic.
Set in generic Small Town, North America (but filmed in Chile), the film stars Cristobal Tapia Montt as the haunted-looking titular figure Martin, who arrives at the home of 16-year-old graffiti artist Peter (Nicolás Durán) looking for a lost love who knew Peter’s mom (Alessandra Guerzoni). Sent to the cemetery, Martin runs into a gang of violent local ruffians (led by Ariel Levy). Their violent encounter sets in motion a chain of even more bloody events that threaten to expose Martin’s shameful supernatural secret.
Seeking existential, noirish heft, Amoedo coyly avoids articulating what Martin is. (He calls himself “sick.”) But it only comes across like an amateur play at gravitas, one unsupported by dully weighted scenes and clunky dialogue, delivered mostly by English-speaking actors straining to hide Latin accents. Martin may despise who he is, but why couldn’t “The Stranger” just be set in Spanish-speaking South America?
“Eli Roth Presents the Stranger”
MPAA rating: None
Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes
Playing: Arena Cinema, Hollywood