(Above: Maika Monroe in ‘The Stranger.” Source: IMDb)
I finally sampled Quibi last week. Well, not quite. What I viewed, thanks to a GoFobo screening, was a feature-length version of Qubi’s The Stranger rather than the 13 mini-episodes you’d get on the short-from subscription streamer.
(Don’t confuse this with Netflix’s 2020 series also titled The Stranger, an eight-episode crime drama based on a Harlan Coben novel and starring Richard Armitage.)
Quibi’s The Stranger, at 1 hour, 43 minutes, turned out to be a fast-paced, if somewhat generic, suspense (bordering on horror) thriller about a young woman (Maika Monroe) stalked by a psychopath (Dane DeHaan). Despite my better instincts, I found myself caught up in Monroe’s nightmare late-night journey through a side of Los Angeles definitely not seen in La La Land.
But if I’d been watching this in episodic format back in April — when Quibi followed up the simultaneous release of the first three episodes with a new episode daily for 10 days – I would have had time to dwell on how writer/director Veena Sud was continually setting me up for scares through really unbelievable plot points. And I would probably have given up on the show after, let’s say, episode four or five.
Yet, strangely, The Stranger works as a movie. The acting is good: DeHaan’s really scary, Monroe seems really scared, and Avan Jogia and Roxana Brusso come off quite believably as a convenience store clerk and a police captain respectively. Sud’s direction is first-rate, although, as previously noted, her script could have been sharpened. And I love any movie that climaxes with a scene in the Los Angeles Riverbed, and concludes with a beautiful shot of, yes, the La La Land skyline.
But most of all, Sud designed her series as a 13-hour nightmare, with each episode bearing a different hour as its title. So the movie version speeds along quite nicely from 7 pm to 8 pm to 9 pm, and on and on until 7 am the next morning.
I’m sure some old film noir, or maybe even a recent movie, has also been divided up this way, so it might not have been a fresh touch. But, for a series – or movie – about a woman’s non-stop nightmarish night, it makes perfect sense, even if The Stranger’s plot doesn’t.
Would running episodes together as a feature film work for other Quibi series? Not having seen any others, I can’t say. But if you binge-watch a Qubi series in one sitting, you’re essentially seeing a feature film anyway. And you can then also watch in vertical format — perhaps just right for a full head-to-toes view of a knife-yielding, hacker extraordinaire, super-fast, sneering psycho.
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