Stray (2016)

In the tradition of films like “The Bad Seed” and “Devil in the Flesh,” Gabrielle Stone stars as Jennifer Stone, a young girl who happens upon a small town one fateful day. Alluring and often enigmatic, Jennifer manages to build the good will of a fellow traveler, and begins establishing herself in the small town of Chestnut Hill. Jennifer will do whatever it takes to build the life she wants, including lying, stealing, and murdering just about anyone. “Stray” is mostly a psychological thriller focusing on this truly complex but twisted antagonist who is oddly alluring but incredibly slimy from the first moment we meet her.

Gabrielle Stone does a bang up job portraying this black widow-like killer who has no qualms about murdering whenever she can. The cast are all very good working well off of star Stone, including Arita Trahan. Director and writer Nena Eskridge does a very good job of setting the character Jennifer up and exploring how she manages to slide in to the town of Chestnut Hill like a snake and slowly interrupt the lives of potential victims. Eventually when Jennifer meets a handsome bartender she acquires a job at his bar and restaurant, and begins scheming to take him from his girlfriend. Just her luck within this small town he and his girlfriend have a sordid past which include adultery and mistrust.

This allows Jennifer to do whatever she can to ensnare Greg, all the while people around town end begin turning up dead. Not to mention the man Jennifer escaped from in the prologue is still hot on her heels. Sadly, “Stray” does fall apart by the third act where events involving a newborn baby, and Jennifer’s descent in to depression never amount to any kind of respectable suspense or tension. All things considered, though, Nena Eskridge’s first directorial outing is very good with a nice episodic thriller that’s tense, and vicious, and feels like something you’d see on the Lifetime Channel during the afternoon. That’s not a slight at all, as “Stray” is an entertaining dark thriller and left me interested in what Nena Eskridge will have to offer audiences down the road.