Sunday, July 10, 2011

Strangers Online and Baring All: A Movie Review

*full disclosure: a screener of this film was provided by Breaking Glass Pictures.

Director: John Huckert.

Writers: John Huckert, John Matkowsky and Dan Acre.

The genre of the erotic thriller seems to have past, much like the '90s. Yet, director John Huckert (Dinocroc) breathes some new life into this style of filmmaking by reducing the soft core porn and infusing his latest film, Strangers Online, with an interesting story line. Character Hollis Parker (Noel Palomaria) has lost his wife to murder and he relives this loss through sexual indiscretions. The result is a lot of nudity, a satisfying conclusion and a film that takes a look at a side of life that is rarely seen.

And sometimes watching peeping toms, narcissists, and obsessive characters is a lot better managed through digital rather than reality. Parker is a late night shock jock, who deals with a following of internet junkies. They upload their desires and rejections through the web cam, while Parker offers a non-expert opinion. Soon a new intern is unclothing, Parker's wife is entertaining the neighbour with her sexuality and callers into the show are baring all. Much of the film involves characters manipulating other characters through sexuality and Strangers Online becomes a light distraction, but not overly compelling.

Actor Noel Palomaria is on center stage for much of the film. From here, he must exude compassion, and an internal struggle. He hits the right emotional chord, but many of his scenes require him to walk around or perform nude. So, taking the actor and his character seriously is a little difficult. Other actors must exude some sort of sexuality at some point, minus the character Zeke (Michael Waite) who would rather watch all the sexual adventures. Overall, the acting in Strangers Online is suitable to the material. This reviewer can totally picture the first casting call question for this feature: are you comfortable performing in the nude?

One of a few positive elements within this flick is the many genres that Strangers Online fits into, or borrows from. Centrally, this is an erotic thriller. However, there are features often seen in horror here, especially in the cat fight filled, knife wielding finale. As well, there is tragedy with minimal drama. There is also some mystery and Strangers Online proves itself to be a versatile independent feature, which shows some complexity.

To release on DVD July 26th, Strangers Online provides a suitable thrilling experience. Some of the sexuality is overdone and the character Zeke does no provide much to the story; but, this film is a fun time spent looking at a wilder side of life. This film is recommended for those looking for something a little different and for those who do not mind simple cinematic hedonism and lots of nudity.

Story/plot/twists/writing: 7 (an interesting ending, some unexpected twists and turns).
Characters/believability: 7 (all the peformances are good and while the characters are overly flawed, they are fun to watch).

Overall: 7 out of 10 (above average, nostalgic).

Another review of Strangers Online can be found here, at Variety (Dennis Harvey):

Strangers Online Reviewed at Variety

More film details for Strangers Online can be found here:

Strangers Online at Breaking Glass Pictures

This feature is now available on DVD. Special features include: the director's commentary, deleted scenes, bloopers and an alternate ending:

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