(15) Running time: 77 minutes
Director: Martin Kemp
Writers: James Kenelm Clarke, Martin Kemp
Starring: Anna Brecon, Jane March, Billy Murray, Jennifer Matter, Linda Hayden
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish, official HCF critic
Stalker is British actor and former one half of Spandau Ballet Martin Kemp’s first full length movie as director. Not only is he famous for a number of hits with the music group formed with his brother Gary, Kemp has also played a number of challenging and classic roles in British film and TV, including playing one half of The Krays and playing Phil Mitchell’s arch enemy as gangster Steve in Eastenders. His first go at directing was a short film called Karma Magnet (2008) a film which starred his brother, and it is included on the DVD of Stalker as a bonus feature. Stalker was made in 2010, however only got a release in January this year, which is strange because the film is not all that bad.
The film tells the story of Paula (Brecon), a struggling writer whose first novel became a number one hit. Rumours of a mental collapse after the release of her first novel, and the pressures of writing something even better for her next work have begun to take their toll on Paula, and she is ordered by her agent Sara (a delightfully sexy Jennifer Matter) to go back to her childhood country home for some peace and quiet. The plan is she will actually be able to get some writing done with no interruptions, and Paula agrees. To help her out, Sara sends some help in the form of a sort of ghost-writer called Linda (Jane March still looking fine at nearly forty). The brief introduction of characters and plot are soon out of the way and we spend the majority of the rest of the film at the country house, and witness another possible breakdown as Paula begins having horrific nightmares. Linda arrives to help, but soon becomes frustrated with the cleaning lady and chap who fixes things around the house and its grounds. Tensions run high, and things begin to spiral out of control. The situation is not helped by a desperate reporter by the name of Robert Gainor (Murray) who will do anything to get an interview with Paula.
The set up is nothing new, the writer going a bit mental in a secluded house has been done to death, but there was something quite likeable about this film. I am not sure whether my judgement was clouded by my respect of Kemp as an actor, or whether the gorgeous women on show detracted from the simple tale, but whatever the reason, I found this film to be a good way of passing one hour and twenty minutes. I admired Kemp’s new found skills as a director, and yes he still has a long way to go before he is regarded as a brilliant director, but there were certainly flourishes of better things to come here. His looming, invasive camera worked incredibly well: following its characters and catching moments with inch perfect timing, and with a lack of music through most of the film, it is the camera which helps build the tension. The scenes of Paula’s nightmares hint at Kemp possibly continuing further into the horror genre in the future as these scenes were very well done, and delightfully dark. Kemp also has a serious eye for the ladies, with Matter, March and Brecon all seducing in equal measure and all very easy to watch on screen. March in particular sizzles and delivers a truly intense performance. Poor old Billy Murray has to share the screen with these ladies, and I am sure he loved every minute, and he plays his character here with conviction and really sinks his teeth into the sleazy reporter type.
The film does have its downfalls: the short running time would have you believe it is fast paced, however it does begin to drag in places. Some of the moments where madness overtakes a character can be a bit laughable, and once the action heats up you will begin to see that Kemp is still learning his craft. The script, written by Kemp, is not perfect and there are times that it will make you cringe, but saying all that this is an impressive debut for the more patient movie fan. The tale of someone going a bit mad is always welcome, and while Stalker is nowhere near some of the great psycho films, it can neatly tuck itself into the genre as an essential watch for the connoisseur of psycho flicks who just can’t get enough of them!