Spandeux Ballet star Martin Kemp’s debut feature Stalker (2010) (not to be confused with the 1979 Andrey Tarkovskiy film of the same name) struggles to hide the inexperience of its director, yet his psychological thriller also demonstrates an understanding of his chosen genre by frequently doffing it’s hat to Hammer horror and trademark Hitchcockian camera angles and shots selections.
Kemp’s Stalker is touted as a thriller in the tradition of Single White Female (1992) and Misery (1990), and tells the tale of famous novelist Paula (Anna Brecon) struggling with writers-block, who retreats to the country to work on her new book having been menaced by a dark figure from her past. With a relatively familiar cast that includes Colin Salmon, Jane March and, most recognisably, Billy Murray, Stalker is an all-British affair that manages to at least retain audience interest until its conclusion, regardless of its predictable premise.
Shot in Suffolk on a meagre budget, Stalker seems consciously aware of references to the films that clearly informed its inception – films like the psychological Hammer horrors of the 1960s like Taste of Fear (1961) or Paranoiac (1963). Stalker does have an eerie and quite isolating atmosphere throughout that is in part a result of its location, an incredibly spooky Gothic mansion in the middle of the English countryside, which provides the inevitable space for the psychological unravelling of the film’s protagonist.
In addition to a well-chosen location and setting, Kemp and his team successfully employ a range of camera angles and shots that further emphasise the isolation of the film’s central character. A series of high angles used in the Gothic mansion establish a sense of claustrophobia while a healthy dollop of low angles continually establish who is in power and when.
For a debut feature, Stalker isn’t a complete disaster and Kemp can take some pride in achieving so much with so little a budget, but for the seasoned film-goer with a taste for the psychological thriller genre, too much of the film is predictable and unremarkable to have any real impact.