A young backpacker runs out of water and asks if he can rent a room for the night at the remote farmhouse of a couple who live out in the middle of nowhere in the California desert. Everything’s fine until partway through dinner when seemingly innocent dinner conversation about happiness spirals into some very awkward inquiries and motivations begin to be questioned.
Yes, I’m uncomfortable. When you invited me to dinner I didn’t know the conversation would include a bunch of questions about existential BS.
Wanderer is an American horror short from 2015. But while I found it searching through the ‘horror’ selection on Amazon, it’s probably better described as a psychological thriller more than it is anything else, though it certainly does deliver on a bit of horror by the end. At a little over 15 minutes, it’s a short ride. But it’s so well crafted that you’ll likely want to go back again to pick up on all the little telltale signs and subtle hints you missed throughout its first run.
Technically speaking, everything in the film looks great. The cinematography, the lighting, and even the soundtrack have been carefully crafted to help introduce and build up tension. Cuts are sharp and quick, and the lighting is purposefully done to highlight and distract. A lot of it is very swift and often subtle, but it’s also seamless, creating a very well put together, little tension-filled tale.
The bulk of the film though, lies in the well done storytelling. Again, this is a film that contains a lot of subtle clues and details, even just within the first couple minutes. It’s the kind of film that gives you the full story right from the beginning, but crafts it in a way that you don’t fully realize what it’s showing you until right up until the end. Instead, it uses your preconceived notions of what you expect to happen, and then flips them in the finale.
The film pulls this off partially through visual and audio cues, but also through acting. From the start you know that something isn’t right. Every one of the three players is acting a little…off. The wife is suspicious, the husband is overly accommodating and the Wanderer seems uncomfortable answering even small questions. But at the same time none of them are so “off” that their behavior can’t be easily explained. The suspense comes from trying to determine why they’re acting the way they’re acting and if there’s anything more sinister behind it. And the dinnertime discussion that gets twisted and turned into an odd psychological examination just helps to heap more tension upon the already tension filled plot.
The cautionary tale behind Wanderer seems to be “Appearances can be deceiving” and the plot essentially follows that idiom to a “T”. Much about this movie seems confusing…right up until it isn’t, and then everything comes into focus. Like I said, it’s an extremely well put together little tale, and it’s even more impressive that the creators managed to achieve what they did in such a short amount of time. If you like mystery/suspense/horror/thrillers, then Wanderer is an excellent choice for a quick watch…or two.
Wanderer is available on several streaming services, including free on Youtube and Vimeo.
You can watch it here: