Judge Alice Nelson believes people are strange when you're a stranger.
Never trust a Baldwin.
Facts of the Case
Emily (Estella Warren, Planet of the Apes) and Robert (William Baldwin, Backdraft) seem to have it all; she's a famous actress and he's a handsome and successful psychiatrist. But their fortunes change when Emily is attacked and kidnapped one night after a performance. She's rescued after a five day ordeal that resulted in the loss of her baby. After six months of therapy, Emily and Robert go on a quiet island getaway, hoping it will help in her recovery. But this is no vacation retreat for Emily as she begins seeing things that aren't there, and hearing the disembodied cries of a baby.
Normally with a movie like The Stranger Within, I would tell you not to waste your time. However, you can still enjoy this bland retread if you play the "What Will Happen Next?" drinking game. Here are the rules: while watching the movie, the host stops the DVD, it doesn't matter where, and then each player will try and guess what will happen next. With every correct answer, the contestant may partake in an adult beverage of their choice. My guess is there will be a houseful of inebriated individuals, because this is one of the most predictable pieces of celluloid that I can remember seeing.
Warren plays Emily with little emotional investment, she's an actress playing an actress and she isn't even convincing in the role. Most of the film takes place on a remote island, and this is where her portrayal and the film begin its permanent and downward trajectory. She begins seeing dead people that vanish when husband walks in the room—yawn. Then Emily hears invisible babies crying and husband appears just after the fact, having never heard or seen a thing—been there done that. Warren's emotional range goes from screaming to screaming very loudly. After such an attack and the loss of a child, we should be squarely on her side, but Warren turns Emily into an incessant whiner instead of a sympathetic woman struggling to survive a horrible ordeal.
Sarah Butler (I Spit On Your Grave) enters the picture one cold and rainy night as nineteen-year-old Sarah, wet and covered in blood after, she says, her boyfriend accidentally fell off a cliff—yeah, right. Here's the real kicker, Robert not only decides Sarah can stay with them, he also volunteers to be her therapist during their vacation—whaaat? Now between you and me, if some strange and beautiful young woman shows up at my door with some cockamamie story, and my husband decides to personally nurse her thorough this tough time when he's supposed to be helping me through a rough patch, he might find himself 'accidentally' falling off a cliff. But Emily, dear sweet stupid Emily, just goes along with it, even after Sarah makes it pretty clear that she wants Robert for herself—must be the medication.
It's no spoiler when I say that William Baldwin is not a nice guy in The Stranger Within. As soon as he appears onscreen you know he's up to no good—only question is what the hell is his dastardly plan? It's really not his fault, Baldwin just has, as my kids like to say, "a bad guy face," and he'd have to be Olivier to convince an audience that his character has noble intentions. However, his performance is as detached as Warren's, which means he's not very convincing even as the mastermind behind some evil plan.
As is the case with most bad films, it's the writing that is the main culprit. Writer/director Adam Neutzsky-Wulff appears to have thrown a bunch of movie clichés into a hat, picked out a half dozen or so ideas and wrote a film around them. Nothing original or interesting here, and each actor is stepping through their lines as if they're just as bored with the script as I was.
Presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, The Stranger Within has the look and feel of a film that has some money behind it, with crisp images of the beautiful Mallorcan scenery, but it's proof that money can't buy happiness or a good movie. The Dolby 5.1 audio is fine when the dialogue isn't overshadowed by an intrusive soundtrack that doesn't seem to want us to hear what's going on—which isn't a big deal because you could miss a huge chunk of the dialogue and still get the gist of the story. And it looks like Sony didn't have much faith in the movie either, because this is a bare bones release with nary an extra in sight—thankfully.
The Stranger Within is a forgettable affair that makes one wonder why anyone would pay to have it made. It is a common theme visited many times before in other and far better films.
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