Review: Stalker (15) / Director: Martin Kemp / Screenplay: Martin Kemp / Starring: Anna Brecon, Linda Hayden, Jane March / Release date: Out Now
Martin Kemp is not a name you would normally associate with horror. Kemp is more famous as one component of 80s pop act Spandau Ballet along with his twin brother Gary. He had a brief stint where he tried acting with roles in The Krays and Eastenders, and now he has turned his hand to directing. I’m pleased to say that Kemp has actual talent behind the camera because Stalker is mostly a stylish and entertaining watch. When it comes to the story however, it’s very much a case of seen it all before.
Stalker follows troubled novelist Paula Martin (Anna Brecon) as she wrestles with her second novel. Her agent is pushy, desperate to get another best seller but Paula is haunted by disturbing, sexy and violent dreams and often wakes up screaming. Paula’s agent eventually sends her away to the country home where Paula grew up. The big creepy house in the countryside is the first sign that things are about to go awry. We learn that at some point in her past Paula suffered some kind of mental break down thanks to persistent journalist Robert Gainer (Injury Lawyers 4 You pimper Billy Murray). Once settled into the country getaway, Paula procrastinates constantly, first injuring her hand and seeming to prefer drinking wine and sleeping rather than getting on with work. Then Linda (Jane March) shows up claiming that she has been sent as a PA by Paula’s agent to help her out however she can. Everything is fine at first, but then Linda takes over writing huge swathes of Paula’s novel much to Paula’s anger. Linda also starts to show some alarmingly psychotic tendencies. Paula becomes slowly more lost in her own fear and paranoia as Linda starts to take over every aspect of Paula’s life and violently deals with those who get in her way.
Within the first ten minutes you know how Stalker is going to end. We have all seen too many psychological thrillers and Stephen King stories with writers as the victim to be surprised by the eventual reveal here. This works against the film and should mean that Stalker is a write off except it’s not completely without merit. There are other eventual disturbing revelations on the way as well as a really interesting final scene once you get past the not so shocking reveal. Despite its innate predictability; Stalker is never less than entertaining.
Working with cinematographer James Friend, Kemp composes beautiful shots that are above those of your usual low budget Brit flick. Using the old horror trope of a stalk around a haunted house, each darkened corner is alive with the possibility of horror lying in wait. This combined with the genuine beautiful oddness of Jane March’s appearance and the way they choose to make her look more and more like a driven insane maniac as time goes on; makes the climax quite thrilling.
The lead performance by Anna Brecon as Paula is very convincing. Brecon previously best known from Emmerdale plays Paula initially as a mousey, quiet woman with a sea of torment bubbling away just under the surface. As time goes on the cracks start to show and it’s believable when the eventual revelation comes as to just how troubled she actually is. Likewise with Jane March, she starts off a fairly wooden and stilted character but when things get crazy her performance matches up. The supporting cast is adequate in their parts, apart from Colin Salmon whose performance is just awful as the most miscast psychiatrist in film history.
It’s a real shame that Stalker doesn’t have a brilliant script to match all of the other elements that would have made it a superior horror thriller. Next time if Martin Kemp brings a brilliant script with him he may just make a masterpiece.
Extras: Director and cast commentary, deleted scenes, behind the scenes feature.