Producers: Nick Gregorio and Drew Marion   Director: Nick Gregorio   Screenplay: Nick Gregorio   Cast: Madeleine Humphries, Colton Eschief Mastro, Ted Evans and Nick Gregorio   Distributor: Gravitas Ventures

Grade: C-

With a plot so thin that the movie seems padded even with a running-time of a mere sixty-two minutes (less if you count the final credits), Nick Gregorio’s ultra-low-budget chiller focuses on a trio of old friends—Sarah (Madeleine Humphries), Danny (Colton Eschief Mastro) and Michael (Ted Evans)—who link up at a remote cabin in Big Bear country for a brief respite from their ordinary pandemic-era lives.  Sarah and Michael are more ebullient and—as will be disclosed—romantically connected.  Danny is rather gloomy, despondent over his breakup with his wife, the reason behind which is also revealed in time.

The three pals aren’t terribly well characterized, but the actors do what they can with the shallow twenty-somethings they’ve been assigned to play, and they deal pretty well with the dialogue, much of which has an agreeably spontaneous quality.  Their conversation on night one is hardly profound, but it establishes their personas. It’s interrupted, however, when an injured guy bangs on their door seeking help.  Since he seems off, they call 911 for help, and a strangely robotic cop (a cameo by Gregorio) shows up to cart the fellow off to the hospital. 

The next day they go on a hike in the chilly sunlight, and it’s then that the plot kicks in.  Michael steps on a strange pile of goo, and when Danny strains to touch it, he gets stung.  His finger begins to swell hideously, and the next day he disappears.  Sarah and Michael spend the day walking the woods searching for him, and the movie nearly comes to a halt as they shout his name incessantly before repairing to the cabin as twilight approaches.  He’s returned, but changed, and there’s friction between him and Michael.

Then Michael disappears, and Madeleine becomes Danny’s prey.  She runs out into the woods and discovers what’s really going on.  It happens to be a trope awfully familiar from plenty of other movies, and carries no particular resonance in this case because the characters have so little personality in the first place.

Though the script and acting are only adequate, technical the picture is actually quite presentable.  Blake Gaytan’s cinematography is fairly crisp, and the footage of strange bodies in the sky and the woods moving and moaning to the guttural sounds of Zane Guidon’s score has been edited into what passes for the action reasonably well.  But Gregorio, editing alongside co-producer Drew Marion, lets many sequences ramble on far too long,   

“Old Strangers” would probably have worked better as an episode of a half-hour “Twilight Zone”-type anthology TV series, with the fat trimmed away.  At mini=feature length, it runs out of gas long before the not-so-surprising reveal at the end.