• The Stranger Beside Me (Mill Creek Entertainment) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Mill Creek Entertainment
    Released on: July 9th, 2019.
    Director: Paul Shapiro
    Cast: Billy Campbell, Barbara Hershey, Kevin Dunn, Suki Kaiser, Brenda James, Jay Brazeau
    Year: 2003
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    The Stranger Beside Me – Movie Review:

    Paul Shapiro’s 2003 made for TV movie The Stranger Beside me tells the story of Ann Rule (Barbara Hershey). She’s a middle-aged former police officer who know makes a living as a counsellor on a suicide hotline in Seattle. When she’s not at work, however, she’s trying her hand as a true crime writer. Life isn’t so bad for Ann at all. Her daughter, Leslie (Meghan Black), is doing just fine and if she isn’t filthy rich, she’s getting her bills paid. She’s also got a very close friend in the form of a man named Ted Bundy (Billy Campbell), a smart and good-looking upstart who has just been accepted at a law school in Utah.

    When a series of murders starts up, all of the women victims, between Seattle and Utah, Ann is brought on board by Detective Dick Reed (Kevin Dunn) to help with the investigation. She’ll be paid for her time and also wind up getting a nice head start on her writing career. She’s taken aback when she recognizes in a police sketch a noticeable resemblance to her friend Ted. When it’s reported that the killer seems to drive a Volkswagen identical to the one that she knows Bundy drives, she has to reconcile her feelings on all of this – and then Bundy is arrested and charged with the mass murders.

    Based on the real-life Ann Rule's New York Times bestseller of the same name, The Stranger Beside Me is a well-made crime drama that does a good job of establishing both of its main characters. Barbara Hershey is excellent as Rule. We completely buy her in the part. She’s smart, capable and very human and it’s really tough to imagine anyone doing a better job than she in this part. Likewise, Campbell is very good as Bundy. The intelligent script gives him pretty solid material to work with and given that it was based on the experiences of someone who knew Bundy in real life not as a serial killer but as a person, it maybe not so surprisingly does a very good job of portraying him as a person as much as it does the inhuman monster we all know him to be.

    Make no mistake, the film doesn’t even attempt to glorify or justify Bundy’s actions but it does lay out how and why Rule would have so much trouble suspecting that this person that she’d spent so much time with and who had been around her pretty young adult daughter (herself a perfect victim given Bundy’s ‘type’) could be a ruthless killer.

    At ninety-minutes in length, the film is paced well. It has moments of intensity and moments that are chilling but it isn’t exactly a horror movie. Those expecting a trashy slasher style gore fest will be disappointed (again, this was made for TV sixteen years ago) but it tells its story well. Shapiro’s direction can occasionally feel a little rushed and the production values do feel very much ‘made for TV’ but the good most definitely outweighs the bad here – this is very well-acted and quite an interesting film.

    The Stranger Beside Me – Blu-ray Review:

    The Stranger Beside Me is presented on a 25GB disc in AVC encoded 1080p high definition and framed at 1.78.1 widescreen. Some minor compression artifacts show up here and there and if you really look for them you’ll spot some very minor, but still present, macroblocking. Otherwise, the image looks pretty solid. Detail is more than passable and colors look good. Grain resolves reasonably well, clumping a little bit now and then but only infrequently. There’s a good bit of noticeable depth and texture to the image as well. No problems with any noise reduction or edge enhancement to note. Not a reference quality transfer, but an okay one.

    The DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track on the disc is fine. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. The track isn’t particularly dazzling but it gets the job done without any real issues. Dialogue is clean and clear, the track is balanced and free of any hiss or distortion.

    There are no extras on the disc but the disc does come with an insert card for a digital HD download o the film. Menus and chapter selection are also included.

    The Stranger Beside Me – The Final Word:

    The Stranger Beside Me is a much better than average made for TV movie that manages to stand out form the pack thanks to some good writing, decent direction and some very good acting from Hershey and Campbell. Mill Creek’s Blu-ray release is barebones but it offers a decent enough presentation at a fair price. Crime drama fans take note.

    Click on the images below for full sized The Stranger Beside Me Blu-ray screen caps!