Coming Soon: A Stranger Among the Living (2020) - Reviewed

Horror is generally at its best when it is a reflection of the terrors of reality.  Often times, mankind is the monster under the bed and when this truth is reflected in medium, it enhances the experience.  Chris Moore's (Triggered) upcoming feature, A Stranger Among the Living explores this concept with a low-fi ambiance that is both haunting and uncomfortably reflective of the violence that has ensnared America.  Featuring a delightfully campy score, moody visual compositions, and a plethora of creep, this is an outstanding example of the power of independent cinema.  

Henry, brings information on a possible school shooter to his principal, who chooses to ignore it and Henry opts not to inform the police.  In the aftermath of the unthinkable, Henry is pursued by otherworldly specters, whose motives remain mysterious as the harried teacher battles for his very soul.  Moore's script is a slow burn voyage through personal hell of guilt.  Dappled with some laugh out loud moments to break the tension, this is the kind of picture that will win or lose the viewer with the pacing.  Borrowing elements from Carpenter, Carnival of Souls and It Follows, Moore's expertise in the genre is apparent in virtually every frame, harmonizing with P.J. Jones vivid cinematography to create an awkward, ominously human tableau that increases the dread with each transition. 

Lee Firestone's editing completes the trifecta.  A mix of careful and quick-fire cuts allow the budget to be obfuscated with blood curdling imagery.  While there is violence, much of it is implied, which is the best kind of horror, allowing the viewer's own experiences and predispositions to create the true demons.  Everything else rests upon Jake Milton's central performance.  His disconnection from society via a slow erosion of sanity is a wonder to behold, simulating the heartbreaking separations survivors endure.  Once you are touched by darkness, it forever alters the soul and Milton's embrace of the material drives this home, allowing the story to barrel into a perfectly ambiguous finale.  While the influences are there, Moore's concept of guilt and grief given form is fascinating, likening the spreading madness to an inescapable disease.  

Coming soon, A Stranger Among the Living is an outstanding independent effort.  Drawing from a vast cosmos of existential material and blending it with the shadows that haunt the American political spectrum, this is essential viewing for horror fans and film lovers who enjoy lower budget pieces with heart.  Relevant, mind bending, and unforgettable, A Stranger is an unwanted guest of the mind who refuses to leave, long after the credits fade.  

--Kyle Jonathan