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"This made-on-a-shoestring film delivers a wallop. I went in with no expectations and was instantly drawn into the compelling opening scenes, and the razor sharp acting by the young cast.The movie opens with Beth (Radha Mitchell) striding purposefully down a dusty highway. She is furious when a car speeds past her leaving her in a cloud of dust without offering her a ride. She arrives at a surprising spacious, super hygienic diner that she opens for business. Imaginative quick shots follow of her filling the condiment containers, starting the coffee, turning on the lights highlighting the boredom and repetitiousness of her life. Enter the driver of the car who passed her by, Jack (Barry Wilson) greasy haired, frail, shaky and obviously broke and hungry. Beth warily jokes with him and feels empathy toward this polite young man; she has obviously had troubles of her own. Jack claims that three surfers are after him, trying to kill him. He clearly is frightened and has a serious wound in his side. While he is telling his story, the "surfers" drive up. In a panic, he draws a knife and hides. The three, led by Daniel (Josh Lucas, the only actor I recognized: "Sweet Home Alabama," "Hulk") said they were on their way to the nearby beach. Daniel in particular was charming, funny and sweet. They admitted they were looking for a drifter who they claimed had broken into their car and robbed them. That's the setup, and Beth (and the viewer) spend two-thirds of the movie trying to figure out who to believe. Violence, terror, and things that-go-bump-in-the-night escalate until the tension is unbearable.The pacing is relentless and for me, the movie went by in a flash. Excellent directing by Scott Reynolds who I understand has made other fine, quirky, low budget films. "When Strangers Appear" doesn't answer all your questions. It never tells you exactly what, if anything, was stolen or whether the drifter or the surfers might be disguised agents of some government, maybe our own. I do not consider this a flaw. It was just one more thing to ponder over. A minor annoyance was the "Oregon" locale. The movie was shot in some Commonwealth country; the road and informational signs were a dead giveaway. The lack of extras (probably a budget consideration) was a plus; it focused the intensity on the main players and heightened the sense of alienation."When Strangers Appear" is excellent entertainment. I recommend buying it for your home library if you are not adverse to a scare or two or three.
What?s all the fuss about?
trebe | 09/03/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"When Strangers Appear, is the kind of movie that can suck you in, and take you along for a suspenseful, and unpredictable journey. Written and directed by Scott Reynolds, the film is an Australian production, set in of all places, Oregon. The plot unfolds, taking twists and turns, designed to keep you guessing. The film features no big stars, but contains solid performances by the entire cast. Ultimately how much you may enjoy it, may depend on your tolerance for ambiguity. If you need to have total clarity and resolution, you may not be satisfied with the ending. Saying too much, about exactly what happens, would ruin it for those who have not yet seen the movie, but here are some peripheral comments. Radha Mitchell, is an actress with talent. She was great in ...Pitch Black..., and also plays a strong woman here. Her performance is believable, and rings true throughout. No cheap laughs, or throwaway lines. Her character "Beth", is busy running two businesses. By day, a tiny dinner, and at night, she manages a motel. Barry Watson, gives an edgy performance as a furtive and suspicious drifter who shows up at the diner, claiming that people are after him. Josh Lucas plays a helpful "surfer", one who's concerned about Beth. And Kevin Anderson plays the local lawman, a guy who apparently has problems controlling himself around women, especially Beth. When Strangers Appear, is an interesting film, with some quirky choices in editing. It starts a bit slow, but the level of violence escalates, at times quite surprisingly. The plot twists keep you guessing, and in the end, you don't know exactly what it was all for. There are some major problems with time sequencing during a standoff scene at the diner, where it goes from noon to dusk in just a few minutes. Also, cars seem to suddenly and silently, appear out of nowhere, a bit too often. The foreign locales could pass for Oregon, unless perhaps you're an expert on trees of the Pacific Northwest. A couple of minor characters, do seem to have a hint of Aussie type accents. The post end credit "post script" doesn't add anything. Though far from perfect, it is still a thriller well worth your time. Radha Mitchell continues to show that she is an actress with much potential.The DVD contains both widescreen and full screen versions of the movie. The extras are minimal, and the subtitling is not true to the actual dialog."
snakecatcher2000 | Cedar Park, TX United States | 04/29/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This one keeps you guessing about everyone except Beth (Radha Mitchell). Even when pieces to this ingenious plot start fitting together, there are still more surprises. Great cinematography and features like the cafe, and the gas station are almost characters themselves the way the camera frames them and then slowly brings the viewer into the scene. When it was over I kept thinking Quentin Tarantino would somehow appear in the credits as "Inspired by..." or "Taken from an idea by...". Loved it and am happy to add it to my collection."
A drifter comes calling
mikey mike | 01/02/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)
"-A pretty lady called Beth owes a Diner out in the middle of nowhere when one day a stranger called Peter comes in a little shook up and claims that he's being chased by three men that later on come in the Diner. Beth must now decide whether she can trust the stranger or whether the stranger is rather the one that should be feared and not the three men after him.
-The movie is a twisted little tale in which you really don't know who to trust with a little character moments sprinkled in there for the sake of it. It does some things right but it I think my ultimate problem with it was the whole "being there, done better" nature of the movie. All the characters seem shallow because we've seen them all before. The tough beautiful girl that knows how to take care of herself, the good guy that start of as a nice guy then change into something sinister, and of course the misunderstood guy that everyone thinks is bad but is actually good. I think I would have liked this a lot more if it was a straight drama instead of trying to inject all those tired and boring movie clichés. It would have been nice to get to know more about Beth other than the minuscule info that we learn about her, and the whole rape thing that apparently happened with her and the cop could have used some exploration.
-My least favorite of cliché when it comes to movies is that loud brass that usually plays when the camera quickly turns around to reveal someone standing there, or in many cases nothing there. This movie does have moments like that, as well as cheap stuff like false scares and playing deep booms in the subs whenever there's a quite moment in the movie to build false tension. There is also that inevitable fight with the bad guy which concludes with the bad guy suffering a pretty fiery fate. Sometimes clichés work very well in a movie that knows how to use them, but in this it just feels all to familiar and fails to garner any interest. It really hurts to say that about a movie with Radha Mitchell and Josh Lucas in it but that's my opinion about this movie.
-We all know Josh Lucas as the sweet southern guy that makes women melt and he doesn't dispel that charm with this movie since the misses loved him in this, but he does do a pretty good job as a bad guy. He's no Michael Ironside but he's still okay as the trusting guy that turns out to be the problem. He got a little cliché towards the end doing the typical bad guy stuff like knowing that the heroine is hiding and that tired evil close up smile that all bad guys share, but I don't think it's a movie that's meant to have great acting so I can't complain much.
- Barry Watson *you know that dude from "7th Heaven* plays the drifter that at first we don't know whether to trust or not till significant time has passed. He's all right but he pretty much just plays the wounded guy that's trying to get someone to trust him. Radha Mitchell plays the lovely Beth and of all her movies that I've seen her in this is probably the only one that I was disappointed with her performance. Just a little difficult to buy her character in the movie but she still gives it her all and even gets to do some pretty hair raising stunts like frying bacon which must have been hell for since she's such a strict vegetarian. Just don't think that when look back on her amazing career we'll be talking about this too much. Despite her characters rough relationship with Lucas' character I'm guessing the two actors got along really well since Lucas participated in Mitchell's directorial debut "Four Reasons".
-The logic of the movie can be pretty odd at times. There's a sequence towards the end when Beth has a chance to escape in a car, but instead of doing that which any normal human being would, she decides it will be best if she rammed her car into the cars of the bad guys which pretty much prevents her from ever having a chance of getting away. If it were me I'd speed the hell out of there and go get help instead of wrecking my only chance of escape. There's also the whole thing with Peter waiting for the bad guys to start breaking into the bathroom before he climbs up the vent. It seems to me that when you have crazy killers on your tail you'd want to be as far away from em as possible. But the movie is meant to be a B movie or whatever, and a lot of the reviewers on here love it so I guess I'm in the minority in not loving this.
-It has a nice concept that I would have liked expanded on a lot better and with less tired clichés, but it's all right for what it is which I'm guessing is a B movie so people should find some entertainment in it. Just don't expect a masterpiece
*PS* Stay tuned for the end credits, there's a set up for a possible sequel."
Modern Approach to "Psycho"ism genre
Burak Kilic | Istanbul, TURKEY | 09/13/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I got to see this film in the fantasy film festival, that took place in Berlin this year. This film has a "Psycho" feeling to it, with all the camera shots, dialogue types. This is very evident at the very beginning. We're in a country kitchen in the middle of nowhere, it's almost eight o'clock, and there is absolutely nobody except for this young and attractive waitress. But, the tension climbs high up just five seconds later, as a mysterious young man enters the eatery. And, indeed, the whole story is about the mystery of this man, who claims himself to be hiding from his friends. The storyboard is quite interesting, in addition to having a known feeling to it, as a thriller-fan would sense it immediately. Yet it is good.
The direction is meticulously done. Juxtapositions in tension scenes are indeed excitement-stressing, such as the young man's dealing with his wound in the most ungentle fashion and the coffee droplets dripping from the coffee machine, making a 'bizzzz' on the metal surface.
Blood, which is a part of most thriller films, is well used. It's not excesive; it's minimally used, yet very efficiently. I think it"s the fear on the victims that thrill us more, and not the blood.
The end is very interesting. I mean not the end of the story, but the end of the film... I will not tell you, because you really have to see it. I highly recommend this movie."