Reviewed by GREG KING
Directors: John Jarratt and Kaarin Faifax
Stars: John Jarratt, Kaarin Fairfax, Alan Finney, Robert Coleby.
Better homes and torture? John Jarratt, so memorable as the psychopathic serial killer Mick Taylor in Wolf Creek spends much of this film tied to a chair being verbally and physically assaulted, a twist that will certainly intrigue fans of his character.
Here Jarratt plays Jack, a jaded pharmacist at the local hospital who seems to have a darker predatory nature. One night he breaks into the house of nurse Emily (Kaarin Fairfax), toting a bag crammed full of sharp instruments. But she surprises him, knocks him out with a taser and ties him up to a kitchen chair. That’s when the mind games and battle of wits between the two begins. A vicious war of words begins, and some of the language is quite tough and laden with vitriolic bile. The ensuing drama also explores the differences between men and women and gender roles.
Written by first time script writer Kris Maric, StalkHer is a tough and confronting and occasionally unpleasant home invasion thriller with generous doses of sadistic violence, obsession, and it serves up a twist on the usual battle of the sexes genre. With the issue of domestic violence and violence against women very much in the news at the moment, this tough and darkly twisted thriller weighs into the issue with gusto and vigour, albeit with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. StalkHer will make for uncomfortable viewing and many may find it unpalateable.
It is largely a two handed chamber piece with a claustrophobic setting that makes for physically uncomfortable viewing. Jarratt and Fairfax, who both share co-director credits, make the most of their demanding and punishing roles. Both of the characters appear slightly unhinged, and are unsympathetic. Despite Jarratt spending most of the film tied to a chair he still manages to bring a strong physicality to his performance, while Fairfax almost makes for a feisty protagonist. The sexual tension between Jack and Emily is palpable.
StalkHer marks Jarratt’s directorial debut and he makes the most of the dark material and the physicality of the piece. It’s simple set, and intimate and intense nature makes it also seem ideal material for the stage. Stalkher‘s central dynamic will remind audiences of Death And The Maiden but with misogynistic overtones and an erotic subtext rather than more overtly political concerns, and Misery. However, the constantly changing balance of power between the two protagonists will also remind audiences of the black comedy War Of The Roses.
The film constantly subverts our expectations, and our understanding of the dynamics of their relationship and our perception of who is the aggressor and who is the victim continually change as the film progresses. There are a few flourishes of fantasy that take us out of the suspense of the moment and occasionally distract from the drama unfolding.
As heralded by the pun in the deliberately misspelled title, some dark humour permeates the material as well. A great soundtrack accompanies the action and seems to emphasise the energy and violence and ramps up the adrenaline levels. The soundtrack features the likes of Nick Cave, Split Enz, and even Jarratt himself with a song appropriately titled Killer In Me.