STRANDED (October 15th)
YOU'VE GOT RED ON YOU TAKES PART IN THE 31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN CHALLENGE; WATCHING ONE HORROR MOVIE A DAY THROUGHOUT OCTOBER. SOME OF THEM OLD, SOME OF THEM NEW, SOME OF THEM HAVE JUST BEEN ON OUR SHELVES FOR YEARS GATHERING DUST, STILL IN CELLOPHANE...
My 31 Days of Halloween picks are a mixture of dads that I have owned but not seen yet, titles from streaming services such as Netflix and Prime) and also good old fashioned DVD rentals (from Cinema Paradiso). For the latter, I get two discs at a time and one of these was I, Frankenstein - which was as crap as I had feared it would be. The second title I have been holding off watching due to the fact I wasn’t sure if I could count it as a ‘horror’ movie. I’m one of those people who doesn’t like to read up too much when it comes to premise and plot as I find it all a bit more enjoyable that way. So I took a gamble with the other one and gave it a whirl with the hope that it might stray into horror territory. Online descriptions of the genre of this movie have ranged from drama to thriller to mystery & suspense. Sounds like it’s in the right ball park eh? Turns out it wasn’t really… The film I am referring to is a little known Italian/American production called ‘Stranded’ - or ‘Monolith’ in some areas. It’s really a survivalist thriller movie but hey, it has a scary dog that bites someone’s ankle at one point so I’m going to consider this a horror movie, Ok?!
The set up for Stranded feels like a Black Mirror conception. Actually the whole thing feels like a slightly tame episode of that series, albeit with less social commentary and sense of impending doom. Katrina Bowden (Tucker and Dale vs Evil) plays Sandra is a faded popstar who has given up fame and fortune for the family life. However, she’s worried that her husband might be cheating on her, so she takes her young son on a cross-country journey to surprise him and hopefully put her fears to bed. However whilst driving along a deserted desert road, she has an unfortunate coming together with a deer. Before she attempts to move the animal out of the road, she gives her son her phone to play with in an effort to calm him down. Sounds like a sensible idea right? Well, it isn’t. Because what I should have mentioned is that her car is not an ordinary car. It’s a ultra hi-tech monstrosity called the Monolith that is designed to protect the driver at all costs. Bullet proof windows, an eerily intelligent on board navigation system - that kind of thing. The vehicle is also remotely operated through Sandra’s mobile phone. Yep, the one that her kid is playing around with in the back. Before she realises what’s happening, her son has accidentally locked the car AND dropped the phone (he can’t get it as he is strapped into a car seat). Locked out of the car, in the middle of nowhere, without any way of contacting anyone - and with wild animals lurking nearby, Sandra has one hell of a task on her hands if she is to get to her son before he succumbs to overheating or thirst…
The reviews for Stranded aren't particularly positive if you take a quick look on the internet. Which is a bit of a shame because whilst it's not exceptional in any way, it manages to grind out a decent amount of tension and suspense. The cast list is very small and Bowden is in basically every scene of the movie. She does a decent enough job but her character is admittedly a bit of a shit parent and it's initially not easy to get on board with her character. I mean, seriously, what mother gives their young kid a sack of marbles to play with? Regardless, the situation she finds herself in is up there with the worst nightmares a mother can have and as soon as that kid locks itself in the car, you're with her all the way.
Stranded had the potential to go full horror if it wanted to as the location and set up are perfect for something sinister. However the antagonist in this movie (apart from Sandra's own negligence) is the weather and the geography. It's a race against time to save her slowly baking child and you've got to be a bit dead inside to not root for her. Saying that, the decision to play things a bit safe and not introduce more active threats does make the whole thing feel a little mild at times. I was hoping it would go up a gear at some point but it never really does. There are a few clunky plot devices too but, I dunno, I just found most of it entertaining enough not to dwell on any of that. You can also read into the film's commentary on the idea of technology being used against us when it has been designed to protect us but it's background noise really. If you go in with your expectations suitably lowered, you might enjoy this one.