The term “Acid Western” was coined by Pauline Kael in 1971 to describe Alejandro Jodorowsky’s El Topo. Since then it’s been applied to films as diverse as Monte Hellman’s Ride In The Whirlwind, The Firesign Theater’s Zachariah and Clint Eastwood’s High Plains Drifter. Now Thomas Lee Rutter (Bella in the Wych Elm) adds Day Of The Stranger to the list.
Caine Farrowood (Dale Sheppard) is a hired gun working for Loomweather (Gary Shail, Shock Treatment, Quadrophenia). After a botched bounty hunt, he thinks he died, but wakes up at home with his wife Christina (Maryam Forouhandeh).
Not one to learn from his mistakes he’s soon back out on the trail. The reward is high but so are the risks. Not just his life, but his soul may be on the line. And who, or what, is The Stranger (Gary Baxter, Beyond Fury)? Is he an ally or the biggest threat of all.
Day Of The Stranger is a very loose adaptation of Mark Twain’s The Mysterious Stranger shot in England which, of course, looks nothing like the Old West. The result is something that looks like El Topo filmed on a budget that wouldn’t buy a fast-food meal for the cast and crew.
That is not a criticism. Rutter gets very inventive at depicting Day Of The Stranger’s bizarre events. The results are frequently much more effective than CGI or other techniques would have been. And there are some truly strange visions to be had in the film’s last half. The first half of the film is merely strange. The second is like something from one of Carlos Castaneda’s books.
Depending on how much you like this kind of surrealism, (and what substances you might have ingested), Day Of The Stranger will either be a fascinating bit of metaphysical cinema or a pretentious filmic wank.
Speaking for myself I found it enjoyably weird. A lot of its attempts to be profound were lost on me, but I still enjoyed Day Of The Stranger. It’s the kind of indie film we don’t see enough of. Something different, not just a mainstream film done on the cheap. It’s also worth mentioning two other British independent directors show up in the cast. Bazz Hancher (White Goods) and Richard Rowbotham (Lonnie Knutsengripper: Man, Myth, and Movies). Rutter is apparently returning the favour and has a part in Hancher’s upcoming giallo Hate Little Rabbit.
Day Of The Stranger recently made its premiere at the Horror-On-Sea film festival. You can check for more screenings and release plans on the film’s Facebook page.