Written by Jonah Kuehner and directed by Benjamin Louis, Stoker Hills is a horror-thriller that’s one-half found footage and one-half serial killer police procedural. The found footage portion follows film students Ryan (David Gridley), Jake (Vince Hill-Bedford), and Erica (Steffani Brass) as they are making their thesis project for Professor Smith (Tony Todd). While shooting out on the street, Erica is kidnapped by a hooded figure, who then proceeds to hunt down the other two as well. Their harrowing exploits are all captured on the cameras they were filming with.
The police stumble across this footage and try to track down the students and stop the maniac whose body count continues to rise. The investigation is led by Detective Adams (Eric Etebari) and Detective Stafford (William Lee Scott), who contact Dr. Jonathan Brooks (John Beasley) to assist them. Their pursuit of the hooded killer is intercut with the students’ footage.
“…Erica is kidnapped by a hooded figure, who then proceeds to hunt down the other two…”
Stoker Hills awkwardly begins with Ryan and Jake shooting during Professor Smith’s class. Then, slightly over 10-minutes in, the movie cleverly switches gears from found footage and introduces the lead detectives. This initial change-over works quite well and provides a solid introduction to the killer. But, Kuehner then keeps cutting between the two formats, ruining the effectiveness of either one.
See, no character, save for Dr. Brooks, has the chance to become fully fleshed out because the narrative isn’t sure who to focus on. Ryan, Jake, and Erica spout off names like Tarantino and Spielberg as if that makes them film buffs. While (obviously) those two titans of industry are remarkably talented and helped change the landscape of cinema, but everyone knows who they are. Why not drop in a William Castle reference or allude to Jack Arnold or Xan Cassavetes in order to feel/sound like actually cinema aficionados? Their inane dialogue, which is only a half step away from Poochie pandering, isn’t doing them any favors. As such, when taken as a whole, half the main characters are just shallow mouthpieces of someone’s idea of a cinema nerd and not an actual film buff.
"…a horror-thriller that's one-half found footage and one-half serial killer police procedural."