CWM Entertainment’s new feature film, A Stranger Among the Living, is certainly a conversation piece. Dark drama supporters and horror fans alike will want to sit around and discuss its themes after a single viewing. It’s edgy, bloody, sometimes humorous and dares you to look at death and grief in a different way. Written, directed and produced by Christopher Wesley Moore, A Stranger Among the Living follows a young teacher who narrowly escapes a school shooting due to his spree acting audition. Racked with guilt and other mixed feelings, the teacher starts seeing the dead wherever he goes, and it sets him a disturbing and uncomfortable journey of self exploration. Starring Jake Milton, Meredith Mohler, Will Lovorn, Keni Bounds, Victoria Posey, JC Patterson and Christopher Wesley Moore, A Stranger Among the Living is gearing up for a film festival run in 2020, and here are my thoughts having had the chance to view it.
Any film that tackles the tragic topic of school shootings is already daring to be different, since that is a hot button issue these days due to near weekly spree shootings around the country. As a reviewer, it’s a startling way to back the movie, as it already filled me with emotions on the harsh realities young people are facing. A Stranger Among the Living does a lot with guilt, grief and trauma, and inadvertently reminds you that the horror of a mass shooting doesn’t end when the massacre is over. Survivors live with that pain and the psychological effects that the pain holds over them is often times immeasurable. Despite these themes, Christopher Wesley Moore was able to add a touch of humor on rare occasions and spruced up the atmosphere with a lot of ghostly apparitions. The ghosts aren’t necessarily vengeful or evil, but they’re certainly creepy, frightful and have a daunting way of getting their points across. At first, I honestly thought they were zombies or demons more than they were ghosts. Props to the film’s director and special effects artist for hitting the nail on the head with their roll-out.
A Stranger Among the Living finds cinematography by PJ Jones and editing by Lee Firestone. I don’t really have many complaints about this production, considering it was done on an independent budget. Christopher Wesley Moore was able to nab a ton of different environments for his story to grow, and he did a lot with interesting angles and lighting. Speaking of which, my first real complaint on the behind-the-scenes work is that a few sequences were a little too dark. This, of course, is almost completely overlooked by me thanks to the generous amount of blood and the amazing performance from the film’s lead, Jake Milton. He delivers a stand-out, award winning performance in A Stranger Among the Living, which is ironic since his character is chasing dreams of being an accomplished actor. However, my second complaint lies with the pace of the movie. When it’s on, it’s on. When it’s slow, lord jesus it drags. I wanted more horror out of this vision.
Still, A Stranger Among the Living is a successful if not completely questionable masterpiece. Drama, horror and suspense bounce off each other in a memorizing way that’s sure to keep your attention. It could also translate to an episode of “The Twilight Zone” reboot if this was another reality/dimension. It’s not going to be for everyone, but horror fans who enjoy a great deal of emotional turmoil in their movies are going to enjoy it. Final Score: 7 out of 10.