February 19, 2018 tHe StaLL (Movie Review)
The loss of a loved one is an extremely traumatic event. The hole that the person leaves sometimes is so immense that it cannot ever be refilled. Sometimes the loss is so overwhelming that it changes the person left behind. Strength becomes a thing that is not so easily found. If not careful, the grief can consume and everything that someone once was or could have been disappears completely.
The Stall (stylized tHe StaLL) offers up a glimpse of one woman’s struggle to find meaning in life again or she will be destined to lose everything that was once her. Initially premiering at the Hoboken International Film Festival in 2016, tHe StaLL is available now through streaming services such as Amazon and will be released on DVD/Blu-ray as of Tuesday March 27, 2018 thanks to SGL Entertainment.
Jezebel (Jennifer M. Kay: Sisterly Disorder series, Flaws 2016) is in grief counseling. Her cousin and best friend, Rachel (Rachel Mazzagatti: Arisen 2015, Batman Beyond mini-series), was murdered by an unknown perpetrator. She is having a difficult time moving on with her life. The pair were extremely close. They also lived together so everyday she is faced with memories of Rachel littered throughout the apartment. Couple this with the guilt Jezebel carries with her for not somehow being able to protect her, Jezebel is not in a healthy place in her life. One of her new obsessions is looking through the local news at the unsolved murders of young women. Many seem to continue to crop up. She is haunted by all of them.
One night, she decides to go to the same bar that Rachel was last seen alive. The bartender, Ilene (Melissa O’Donnell: Beyond My Skin 2017, The Scarecrow’s Curse 2017), seems concerned because Jezebel is alone and drinking heavily. Jezebel dismisses her concerns. She can take care of herself, after all. Ilene’s concerns were not unfounded, though. As Jezebel is in the restroom touching up her makeup, she is attacked and abducted. Jimmy (Loren W. Lepre: Pennsylvania Hardcore 2014, The Dark Military 2017) is the greasy, vulgar leader of the pair. Rick (Tom Schmitt: The Upside 2017, They are Strangers 2017) is the attractive and obviously extremely insecure of the duo. Jezebel now has to either fight for her life and survive or succumb to her fate. Either decision, she will be changed forever. Does Jezebel still have enough will to live to get out of this? Will she? Just how deeply has the death of Rachel affected her?
Truly strong women in films are in short supply. tHe StaLL offers them up in spades. Not only does Kay portray Jezebel as a deeply flawed and delightfully snarky protagonist, but she is also the mastermind of the entire film. Kay is the writer, director, and star of tHe StaLL. Ilene must put up with unwanted, routinely vulgar advances just to make a living. Rachel lost her life, but she was clearly full of it before her untimely demise. Still, the film reminds the viewer, yet again, that women always have to be on guard. There are men out there that are willing to take away any and all sense of security and normalcy. Unfortunately, women can never really put their guard down and have to be constantly aware of their surroundings in order to stay safe. Even the strong ones are not immune. Sticking together and watching each other’s backs seems to be the only way to make it through life.
tHe StaLL is interesting, but it almost seems like a rough draft of something that might have been much greater. The flaw lies in character development. There is no frame of reference as to who Jezebel was before the loss of her cousin. Was she happy before? Or has she always been depressed? Then there is Rick and Jimmy. Why did they kidnap Jezebel? What is their end game? Why does Rick blindly follow Jimmy when it is obvious even Jimmy does not really know what is going on?
These gaps in characters could have been resolved with a bit of dialogue or even a quick flashback to the beginning. Though Kay is the star of the film, it is O’Donnell that steals the show. Not much is known about her character, but her motives are clear. She is also easily the most likable character out of the bunch. Had the others been treated the way the tough as nails bartender had been, the film would have been more successful. While the characters are interesting, they are not as engaging as they ultimately could have been.
Sometimes there are major events in life that changes everything that was once normal and good. Those same events can also completely alter the course of a person’s purpose in life. The plot of tHe StaLL is both fresh and familiar. Though there are some flaws in the offering, it is ultimately intriguing and thought-provoking. It is for these reasons that CrypticRock gives tHe StaLL 3.5 out of 5 stars.