Stalker review – low-budget trapped-lift horror aims for cat-and-mouse drama

A young actor walks into a shonky hotel lift, ignoring the out of order sign. This is Rose Hepburn (Sophie Skelton), and frankly she is appalled to be staying at a three-star establishment while shooting a horror movie. (“It takes them an hour to bring you a coffee!”) Following Rose into the lift is a stammering, nervy man, who can’t meet her eyes when she asks which floor. The doors shut with a judder, and for the rest of British director Steve Johnson’s low-anxiety, low-budget horror we’re trapped in the broken lift with these two.

It starts interestingly enough with a guessing game as to which of them is the predator. At first, Daniel (Stuart Brennan) is the obvious contender. He is a cameraman on Rose’s film, and clearly he’s been following her (there’s a stash of memory cards in his bag). He’s a creepy peeping Tom, possibly a dangerous stalker. But then, maybe there’s more to Rose, who only got the part after the first choice actor disappeared in mysterious circumstances. She’s self-absorbed and full of herself, belittling Daniel’s attempt to bust them out of the lift: “Not quite the hero we need are you?” As a cat and mouse drama, this is intriguing up to a point, though let down by heavy-handed dialogue.

What’s really missing in this confined space is claustrophobia. (I have never been trapped in a lift but less glamorously I did once get stuck in a toilet cubicle at the offices of a film company; the maintenance man passed a screwdriver under the door so I could remove the lock). But that sweaty, close-to-a-nervous breakdown tense feeling of being trapped is nowhere in the film. And where the script goes in its pulpy nasty final twist felt to me like a disturbingly misogynist move.

• Stalker is released on 10 October on digital platforms.