Much like the main character, I never knew quite where things stood in A Stranger Among The Living (2020). The film has a way of establishing “rules,” and then pulling the rug out in a way that could easily frustrate the audience, but instead, compels you to keep watching.
The latest indie horror feature from Writer/Director Christopher Wesley Moore (Triggered 2019) deals with a young teacher who barely escapes a school shooting. He’s then stalked by the undead and his own insecurities.
Henry (Jake Milton: Blood Country 2017) is an unhappy teacher who dreams of making it big in acting. While he ditches work to snag a local audition, an unhinged high school student goes on a shooting spree. Henry may have left just in time, but his troubles have just started.
And so begins the dual narrative: Henry being haunted by visions of the dead (or are they alive?) and questioning whether he should be chasing his dreams, no matter the cost. The story arcs overlap back and forth in a satisfying rhythm.
The supernatural elements in A Stranger Among the Living borrow heavily from the classic Jacob’s Ladder (1990) in both tone and situations. In fact, one scene is taken straight from the film, but I find it more of an homage that a direct ripoff. I like it when directors appreciate the same stuff I do. It makes the experience more personal. However, I found myself more drawn to the themes of lost potential and abandoned plans.
The title could almost refer to Henry even WITHOUT the stalking dead. He lives in a world without support or any real connection, and at the end of the day, all he’s left with are the few dollars he may or may not use to someday move to New York and do… something.
And while A Stranger Among The Living has just as much social and emotional commentary as Triggered did, its a completely different animal. While I found Triggered hysterical, this film is somber, pensive, and wistful. In fact, the only source of lightness comes in the form of Moore himself, who plays Jarvis, a wise-cracking fellow entertainer Henry meets at a grief support meeting. When you watch Jarvis talk with Henry about putting his acting days on the shelf, it’s easy to imagine that Moore is expressing his own anxieties in that moment.
It’s a unique, meta performance, and a damn good one. A Stranger Among The Living doesn’t serve up a tightly-drawn supernatural scenario. But, it DOES make you want to get off your ass.
A Stranger Among Us is currently making the festival rounds. Keep reading PopHorror for details on availability.