When Strangers Appear
WHEN STRANGERS APPEAR. 2001

Director: Scott Reynolds

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl



Beth (Radha Mitchell) owns a roadside diner that does almost no business since the new state highway siphoned traffic away from her road. One day a young man (Barry Watson) shows up, wounded, claiming bad guys are out to kill him.

But as Beth interacts with the decent-seeming surfer dudes who show up soonafter, & even finds herself attracted to one of them (Josh Lucas), she begins to wonder whether she's hiding & protecting the right guy who, it turns out, is on meds for schizophrenia & might be dangerously delusional.

With inference heaped on inference, it's impossible to know who is the cat & who the mouse. By the time she figures out that even paranoids can have enemies, she's in pretty deep.

The plot is hoky. The reason for the events remain vague though we learn it all has something to do with a computer disc. There's a downright silly action-climax with everyone doused with gasoline. There are scarsely any twists in the tale, so any surprise it might have are used up by halfway thorugh.

But it's well acted even if the cast lacks star power or charisma. For a while it almost works as a psychological thriller, but never completely takes hold. It's well enough photographed that it almost disguises its own B-film shlockiness, but this superficially slick veneer probably contributes to the film's failure, since one expects it to deliver a bit more than a B cheapie that couldn't even afford a third location for shooting.

The film is so suffused with cliches that it probably shouldn't've taken itself quite so seriously. Being this dumb, it could've capped itself with something even dumber, like Beth turning out to be the villain, something as ridiculous as everything else but not so instantly expected, providing at least camp value. But it lacks even that.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl



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