Thoughts on “The Dark Stranger”

“The Dark Stranger” is actually an odd horror movie.  The main premise if taken as a horror movie is that a shut-in young woman suffering from mental issues starts to do art again in the form of a comic book, and the things start to come to life.  Well, that’s at least most of what is said on the back of the box.  What really happens is that it seems like she gets some kind of mental connection to the “Dark Stranger”, which gets her to draw comics in a fantasy world that parallels her life, and the things she writes about are things that the supposed “Dark Stranger” actually does in real life.

As a horror premise, it isn’t bad, but as a horror movie the movie doesn’t work all that well.  There’s a lot of focus on the artist and her family and the people around her, how she tries to get back into reality, and the fact that she seems to have to cut herself in order to draw.  That takes up time that could be used to build the horror and tension.  Additionally, the movie itself isn’t all that scary and there isn’t that big a threat to people.  We see one murder and then a capture, but for the most part the scary things are her obsessions and some jump scares rather than actual horror.  The production values and acting are fairly good, though, so it comes across as a decently produced and acted horror movie that doesn’t really manage to live up to its potential.

However, I don’t think that’s what the movie is really about.  It strikes me that the movie is, in fact, an attempt to use horror to make an analogy for depression.  The artist’s mother killed herself due to depression and everyone is worried that the artist is going to follow her example.  The Dark Stranger appears when she stops taking her medication and seems to be an analogy for depression itself, encouraging her to create but trying to push her to kill herself in or after doing so.  This relates to what some creative types have felt is the conundrum with medication, as it seems to stifle their creativity but without it their mental issues take over.  The movie hints that the Dark Stranger was responsible for the mother’s death and at the end might be targeting another artist.  Moreover, the ending hints that all of the horror things that occurred were in fact in the artist’s head, as her new boyfriend and her brother were seemingly in the horror world of her comics and yet don’t react as if they were, and they are missing physical signs of their experiences in that world.  So all of this could simply be her delusions as she sinks further and further into depression, and only with the support of her friends and family — that her delusions and depression have been alienating her from — can she break free.

As an analogy for depression, it’s actually kinda interesting.  I suspect that some depression advocates would be at least a bit annoyed by the implication that the way to cure depression is stop taking your medication and overcome it with force of will, but what the movie does brings a perspective to depression that people who are not ingrained with the clinical and technical details of it can understand, including things like isolation and guilt and all of those things (which was also more directly hinted at in “Ouija Room”).  And so, seen as that, it’s also more interesting.

As a horror movie, it’s competently presented but not all that interesting, so I wouldn’t sell it but wouldn’t rewatch it any time soon.  As an analogy for depressing, it’s more interesting … but also because of the subject matter is not a movie that I’m going to want to rewatch frequently.  So, it goes in my box of movies that I might rewatch again, but is a movie that is actually of higher quality and is more interesting than that would normally imply.


One Response to “Thoughts on “The Dark Stranger””

  1. Thoughts on “Anne” | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] the movie didn’t have to really do full-on horror.  It could have done something like “The Dark Stranger” and been more an examination of the mental illness itself examined through a horror lens.  Except […]

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