I think the true social importance of horror films is how we often readily identify with the characters at the heart of a story’s bloody crisis. It would have been much more difficult me for to survive my rural, often un-fabulous childhood without Halloween’s Laurie and Friday the 13th Part 3’s Chris filling me with determination and hope. Similarly, the gateway into openly gay writer-director Chris Moore’s moody chiller A Stranger Among the Living is how much we sympathize and relate to Henry Lyle, the film’s sensitive lead who finds his life thrown off balance after a violent crime occurs at his place of work.
A struggling actor with an emotionally suffocating mother, Lyle finds himself shadowed here by mysterious figures after he switches assignments with a fellow teacher in order to attend an audition. When his coworker expires in a school shooting, he soon realizes, much like Carnival of Souls’ Mary Henry or Final Destination’s Alex Browning, that death isn’t quite through with him yet.
Played with quiet conviction by the talented Jake Milton, Lyle is already burdened by the time we meet him. Unfulfilled with his career path, he is seemingly afraid to commit too fully to any life choice less he be disappointed. He is uninterested in romance, making him perhaps the first asexual protagonist in a genre project. But even the virgin as final girl/guy trope may not save him as his friends and family soon begin to disappear or meet mysterious fates.
That Moore makes those supporting contemporaries an often sympathetic and aggregable bunch is another of this film’s strengths. Even as she tries to strangle the few tremulous ambitions that Henry retains, actress Victoria Posey brings a soft vulnerability to Patsy, Lyle’s needy, traumatized mother. Moore, himself, brings a ray of fun and energy into the film’s world with his take on the flamboyant Jarvis Coker, a zany addict who ingratiates himself into Henry’s life after they meet at a support group.
As with his previous films, including Blessed Are the Children and Triggered, Moore applies a bit of political consciousness here, as well. But, most importantly, with Henry he presents us with a character that reflects the insecurities and indecisions that we all so often face in a world that seems odder and more hostile with every passing moment.
More information on Stranger, including screening events and links, is available at https://www.facebook.com/astrangeramongtheliving/.
Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!