As one of the first female directors to emerge in the 1980s, Gaylene Preston has been at the forefront of the genre and has spearheaded plenty of work throughout the years. Now finally getting the recognition needed for such a prominent piece of work, her first film from 1984, Mr. Wrong, comes to the 5th annual “Stranger With My Face” festival.
In a stroke for independence, young Meg (Heather Bolton) buys a car from a used-car dealership and sets out to visit her parents in a small village nearby. While on the journey, she becomes increasingly aware of a slew of creepy and chilling noises coming from the backseat of the car; however, it disappears whenever there’s a light on inside the vehicle. As the events keep happening, she begins to feel there’s a presence beyond the usual “personality” attributed to eccentric old cars. Slowly she uncovers the shocking history of the car’s previous owner, but not before the car exerts some tragic influence in her life.
Overall, Mr. Wrong was quite the fun and somewhat enjoyable effort. One of the more fruitful areas about the film is that it does engage in quite a lot of really appealing work to convince viewers the car’s actually haunted. The fact that it’s completely innocuous looking on the outside makes the events that happen within the car all the more frightening. With the strange eerie moaning and the gasping noises from the backseat, despite her being the only one in the car, the continuous incidents she believes has played out. Yet, no one else can corroborate her story or the way it won’t leave her alone to carry on her life and keeps dragging her back into the fray. This all makes for some creepy moments and atmosphere.
The storytelling and direction is nicely handled through the great character work accomplished, making for quite the effective tale. Built as the typically shy, repressed loner who’s finally given the independence necessary with the purchase of the car, her journey here is the central piece of the film. The escalating madness she experiences as the car slowly drives her mad is a great way to add to the chilling vibe. This even intensifies the tension quite nicely as it becomes obvious the car’s personality has started rubbing off on her, with the increasingly erratic behavior and mood changes that signify how she has started getting influenced by the car itself. There’s plenty of that in the final half as well, which brings in some really enjoyable twists and a great final resolution that picks this up nicely.
Now, there are a few flaws to be found. The film isn’t really all that well-versed in offering plenty of jump-scares or a lot of suspenseful moments, but instead, content to play to the slow-burn. This features her going insane over what the cars’ actually doing to her, rather than featuring the ghostly actions driving this along. The film really seems to slow down once she gets to the town and visits her family, which really doesn’t have much in the way of action that generates any kind of excitement in what’s happening; it is so slowly paced that it doesn’t really feature any kind of action. Instead, it’s basically more about her pleading with others to believe her stories and going around to investigate the past. The film doesn’t feature any kind of ghostly actions at all, and some of the activity featured isn’t all that creepy— so it does have some problems to point out.
The film will be screened as part of the Stranger with My Face festival running May 4-7 in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.
3 out of 5 Zombie Heads