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WELCOME THE STRANGER (2018)

Directed by Justin Kelly
Written by Justin Kelly
Starring Caleb Landry Jones, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee, Rosemary Howard, John Clofine
Find out more about this film here

WELCOME THE STRANGER is an odd and obtuse indie that is immensely watchable because of the huge talent of its three lead actors—actors who, in a fair and just world, will become household names.


Ethan (Caleb Landry Jones) is a struggling illustrator, living in a mansion he inherited from his deceased mother. His estranged sister Alice (Abbey Lee) arrives unannounced after a long absence from Ethan’s life. Alice and Ethan spend a few days catching up and hesitantly avoiding the reasons why Alice left the home, but that peace is disrupted when Ethan’s girlfriend Misty (Riley Keough) arrives to stay with Ethan. Dark secrets, midnight hallucinations, sordid family relations, and possible UFO abductions commence in this twisted and fascinating descent into madness and beyond.

While some might find it a stretch to call this a bonafide horror film, there are all kinds of odd elements at play in the narrative. The siblings exist in a sort of dream world where a lot is unsaid between the two siblings, but much is understood. If you have a sibling, you know what that means. The experience of growing up together is a closeness that can only be shared by siblings and thus a sort of unspoken language is made. That feeling is conveyed to almost perfection in the scenes between Jones and Lee as they simply enjoy their time together rather than delve into the semantics of why Alice left and why she’s returned. We have these questions, but it is simply enjoyable seeing these two fascinating characters reacquaint themselves with one another. A good portion of the film focuses on this relationship and while I might not be doing it justice by describing it, the feeling is solid and strong throughout and it makes for some engaging viewing.


This would be impossible if not for the absolutely stellar performances by Jones and Lee. These two actors have played in films where they seem like they are from another stratosphere (Jones in GET OUT, ANTIVIRAL and THE LAST EXORCISM—Lee in FURY ROAD), but somehow the two actors fit together like hand in glove. Seeing these two odd characters interact so comfortably with each other is a treat and it takes a special kind of actor to be able to highlight their own uniqueness while still finding a way to chime with another actor. When Riley Keough is added to the mix, it does disrupt the natural flow between Jones and Lee, but it supplies the necessary conflict to get the viewer some much needed answers that the two siblings won’t ask one another. Keough is a solid performer and offers up some nice conflict, but this is Lee and Landry’s show the whole way through.

The film isn’t all just sibling tension and relationships. It also might be about murder. It might be about alien abduction. It might be about madness. The film is one of those that leaves many questions unanswered. I’m not pissed about that though as the fantastical or macabre elements take a backseat to the superb and engrossing performances at play in WELCOME THE STRANGER. This indie film is not going to be for folks who like all of the blanks filled in. It leaves a lot for you to piece together. Still, I didn’t want this WELCOME THE STRANGER to end, solely because of Lee, Landry, and Keough and I think, if you take a chance with this film, you will too.




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