Stray (2016)

Starring Gabrielle Stone, Dan McGlaughlin, Samantha Fairfield Walsh

Directed by Nena Eskridge

Director Nena Eskridge’s maiden voyage into filmmaking waters is Stray, a dramatic-thriller that employs some dark doses of mind-altering techniques to give the viewer something to ponder during its runtime, and aside from some slow pacing and extremely thematic delivery, it still serves as a decent watch for those who like their white-knucklers with a little Lifetime Movie network tossed in.

Dee Wallace Stone’s daughter Gabrielle excels here in her portrayal of Jennifer, a woman who appears to be running from some heavy trauma in her life. We catch a cut-shot of her fleeing from a man’s van deep in the woods after she’s shanked him in order to beat-feet, and after a quick jump, we see she’s now knocked up and residing in a sleepy-town called Chestnut Hill. Her allegation that the baby’s father-to-be (McGlaughlin), the owner of a local bar, isn’t exactly sitting well with his fiancee, Sarah (Walsh) – more importantly, the wedge has been driven between the two, and we’re all left to sit among the fallout, and WOW, is it gonna be bad. After the baby has been born, Jennifer’s attitude begins to take a very disturbing shift, and her once sweet demeanor dissolves into deceitful tactics and vengeful motives…hey, nobody ever said a love triangle didn’t come without its downsides!

Stone’s performance here is what holds this film together, as she pulls off the 180-degree turn to completely smack your gray matter into thinking one thing about her character, then promptly delivering an overhand-right to sway your decision once again – strong and convincing, to say the least. Also a huge bouquet of “well-done” roses should be delivered to Eskridge for pulling off this film on a moderately small budget, all the while keeping it looking real and not losing any emotion and conveyance of such to the tiny allocation. Tempo, you say? Okay, now we’ve got a bit of an issue: if you’re not down with the whole “soap-opera-like” format of the film, then this one might not be your cup of tea, but stay the course, evil-doers: there’s enough dark-deception and underlying terror to keep an audience hooked, and I could surely offer this up as a one-timer – give it a peek when it crosses your path.

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Matt Boiselle

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