The road is long from Austin, Texas to the sunshine state of California, a new start for history teacher Andy in the big city of Los Angeles, the only constant in his life his faithful dog Juicebox, a chance to reinvent himself and grow into a better person, except with no witness in a city full of bright lights and indifferent strangers the effort seems wasted.
Forcing himself out of an evening to interact, sitting in a bar alone, he strikes up a conversation with the only other person there, Sam; she immediately pegs him as a “hardcore drummer dude cheeseball,” but as a former music festival organiser they find common ground, and she calls a ride to take them back to her place to spend the night.
That chance encounter is followed by another when walking Juicebox; Roger, the friendly driver from the night before, frequents Andy’s local coffee shop. Also relatively new in town, the two make arrangements to meet up for a drink, but with Sam understandably his primary focus who takes more of his free time, Roger’s overtures of friendship are ignored, but instead of tapering off they become more aggressive and intrusive.
The driver firmly in control of the situation, Stalker is directed by Tyler Savage from a script co-written with Dash Hawkins, an unbalanced triangle of need and entitlement with Vincent Van Horn as the occasionally awkward but essentially good-natured Andy, understandably believing things will taper off, Christine Ko as Sam, carefully allowing Andy into her life with no idea of what will follow, and Michael Lee Joplin as the deeply underestimated Roger.
At first ingratiating and a little creepy but an easy short term option, Roger is only a liquor-tainted breath away from full stalker, manipulative and unreasonable, painting himself as the victim even as he begins to systematically undermine Andy’s attempts to build a relationship and career, the ease with which the situation escalates perhaps the most disturbing part of the film, the cumulative pin pricks which Andy feels but cannot prove.
“You probably antagonised him” is the attitude of the police officer to whom he tries to report the harassment, a reversal of roles as the man makes the complaint, one sentence encapsulating a spectrum of victim blaming, of the difficulty of demonstrating a case, that men cannot be violated, but while Stalker seems to be on a slow progression Savage lives up to his name in a thriller which blends the menace of Hors Du Monde with the inherent oddness of transient intimacies of The Stylist, reflecting the inescapable disappointment of a world where everyone is looking for something better.
Stalker is available on digital download from Monday 21st May