Welcome The Stranger is One Thoroughly Confusing Movie!
Everything in this movie isn't what it seems. Things are just far enough off center as to be strangely debilitating, yet intriguing. IMDB
3.7Overall Score
Reader Rating: (4 Votes)

I love this site’s new movie suggestion/discussion board. Love love love it. You can find it here if you are interested in seeing what others are recommending. And I am using it to guide what movies are worth checking out and then writing about. So far you guys have suggested Forgotten, and the Frame, and I’ve had a blast reviewing those. You’ve given a good pile of movies, and I’m trying my best to run through as many of them as possible.

But all of that is irrelevant right now. Now? We talk about Welcome the Stranger. I had never heard of it until JR dropped us all a tip, and I have to tell you, I was flummoxed from beginning all the way up until the end when it all became clear what was happening. But I just sort of rocked in a fetal position until it all clicked. But before I get into it maybe we should enlighten those of us who have no idea what a Welcome The Stranger even is… yeah?

I’m not specifically calling this movie an official THiNC. recommendation by any stretch. But I enjoyed the complexity of it, and the way this thing could have been any one of a million different genres, or all of them at once. So here’s the deal, since this website isn’t a movie review website, and I prefer to talk about these crazy movies with my interwebs friends… you know, you guys. And so if you haven’t seen the movie, then, um, respectfully go away. Great! But only so you can watch the film and then come back after you’ve seen it.

Quick Welcome The Stranger Walkthrough

The reason this movie was so fascinating to me was simply because the entire movie is so disorienting. Like, what the heck is going on, kind of disorienting. And the opening of the movie is no different. So, the movie kicks off, and we follow Alice as she heads to some estate. Finding no one she goes swimming. And eventually Ethan comes out. Who is Alice? Who is Ethan? No idea. But eventually we find out that Ethan lives there at the estate alone. And Alice is his estranged sister. Ok?

Soon after she arrives, while Ethan is working on his book, she decides to investigate, and she heads out to the little vineyard. Is that what you would call that? Anyway, something is important about this location at the estate. To this day, I don’t know what. But it’s important. More importantly, is that Ethan has a book that he is working on. An idea that is already in motion. Ok? Got that. Good.

As the story progresses, Alice dreams of another woman, and follows this woman around the estate. Lights come from the sky, and some sort of something coming from the sky. After the dream, Ethan and Alice find a “sinkhole” in the vineyard location. Why? What? Honestly, still don’t know its significance. But soon after Ethan loses his “special pen”… the pen that he draws with. This I do know the significance of. But we’ll get to that later, promise.

Soon after we find out that Alice did not come to their mother’s funeral. But that was because she treated Alice like a mistake. So we know that there is some sort of familial chaos there. Something bigger has happened between them and their family. But more importantly, Ethan isn’t able to concentrate on his drawings that he needs to do for his book. Instead he doodles lines that match the lines of art in the sky over the vineyard. When he tells Alice he’s distracted, she responds with one of my favorite lines from the movie, “Are you distracted because we live on a giant sphere spinning in the middle of nowhere?”

Other irrelevant stuff happens (trust me, its relevant, but I literally can’t reproduce the screenplay here – I mean, I could, and my tendency is to, but I do have to have some semblance of a life! Trust me, I got other things I need to do today! hahaha.) And ultimately Alice finds out that this was their mother’s house. That she had a hidden life of some sort. And that Ethan inherited this house from her.

There is a moment, that I am sure is going to be brought up in the comments of this movie, so I’ll mention it. Ethan finds a bug crawling on the floor. So he captures it and hides it away. And towards the end he comes back to it, and it’s not there and he says, “It wasn’t real.” So tuck that away, and we’ll talk about it in the theory section.

Anyway, eventually Misty arrives, and Alice finds out that Ethan has a girlfriend. But she finds it so strange because Ethan and Alice used to share everything together, and now she doesn’t even know that Misty exists? And while they spend the next several days together, Misty and Alice disdain each other obviously. But the weird thing about Misty? Ethan doesn’t really remember how he met her. Doesn’t remember exactly why they are together… or really anything that proceeded their meeting.

Eventually it comes out that Alice made love to their mother’s husband, and then she walked into the ocean. I assumed from that, that it was their step-father? They never found her body, all they know is that she is gone. And eventually Misty asks Ethan to go with her as she films a role in Europe. But this totally flips Alice out because she is OBVIOUSLY trying to steal Ethan away and she’ll never see him again. Well, when they all have dinner together, Alice declines the wine, and Misty realizes that Alice is pregnant. (This is significant… trust me.) She’s not smoking, she’s not drinking. Obviously pregnant. And after a confusing evening, Ethan and Misty are having sex… and Ethan and Alice have some sort of telekenetic connection going on. Something. And Alice coerces Ethan into strangling Misty.

So Misty is dead. And they bury her in the sinkhole under the vineyard. Because, of course. And the next morning? What happens? Because this is significant. Ethan cranks on a NEW project. The story of this exchange between Ethan, Misty, and Alice. In one fell swoop he cranks out the art necessary and is content with it. Files the papers away, and splash. Someone is in the pool. So out goes Ethan to see who is in the pool? Who could it be?

It’s Misty. Swimming naked in the pool. Oh, and now would be a great time to roll the credits. The End.

Welcome the Stranger Explanation

Normally when I do walk throughs on movies, I prefer to throw several ideas of what possibly could be happening. Usually I throw a moral explanation, a literal one, a lame one – just to keep you on your toes, and then the one I actually think it is. But here? There really is only one explanation. So why bother? Oh screw it. I’ll give you a couple different theories. Alright alright. So what if there really is only one way to look at this film. I’ll make some crap up for you to wrestle with, but be careful, if you pick the wrong theory to advocate in the comments… I will laugh at you. (Ok no I won’t. When have I ever laughed directly at your comments out here? Well, besides that one time. Ok ok ok… and that other time… Stop. Move on.)

The Literal Explanation for Welcome The Stranger

As always with a literal version of events – what happened on the screen happened in reality. About the only thing that doesn’t work in a realistic version of events is the lights in the vineyard. And we can easily explain all that away with one word, “dreams”. Right. So Ethan is unbalanced. And a trigger for Ethan is Alice. Misty, an actress, just wants to save Ethan from his sister. But Alice wins and Misty is killed and buried. Eventually, the cops will come looking for her, and Ethan will go to prison for the death of his girlfriend. But for right now? He got his drawings done. So hazzah Ethan!!  (Like I said, there are wrong theories here. And this is definitely one of them.)

The Moral Morass Explanation for Welcome the Stranger

Another way of looking at this movie is more of a morality tale. A warning against insanity the comes with sin, maybe? Sort of a Canterbury Tales vantage on the film. Be diligent. Idle hands are the devils playground (you do realize I’m not even trying here right?) and with that, it is a cautionary tale against the vice of sin. Sin brings on insanity and the downward spiral of all that is good, No, I can’t even continue down this line of mis-logic. hahahah. But maybe there is something here if I just would dig more.

The Mental Prison Explanation for Welcome the Stranger

Or what about a theory that digs into the mental prison idea. That entirety of the movie is in Ethan’s head. And he has a good angel, and a bad angel attempting to get him to do the right thing. (Which is which you ask? No idea. Absolutely no idea.) But eventually one angel wins out over the other evil angel. Or vice versa. And he kills the one, and stops listening to her. And it is from there that Ethan gets his freedom. Maybe he’s sitting in an insane asylum somewhere. Just drooling his apple sauce. And battling his demons in his mind. And as much as you laugh at this one, this isn’t actually too far off the mark.

The Muse Explanation for Welcome the Stranger

What if we take that idea… and say that in the “real” world, wherever that is. Maybe his apartment. Maybe his desk at work. Doesn’t matter. In the real world, he has an idea. It is an idea for a book. And this idea is rapturous. So perfect. So he begins work on said idea. But mid-way through his work on this art book another idea arrives. This idea (Alice) is naked, beautiful, perfect, and enticing. And this idea has always been back there, in the back of his mind. Perpetually resurfacing. Right? And so he invites it back in to his house to just visit… for a day. But really? He has to get back to work on his book… his idea that will pay the bills. Because. You know. Duh. But the longer Alice stays, the more the other idea fails to bear fruit. (Vineyard?) And eventually Misty has to come back and fight for her rightful place in Ethan’s mind. And in the beginning? She does well for herself.

That is until Alice gets Ethan to strangle it dead. And so they bury that idea. And thankfully, once that other idea is dead, Alice just explodes out of his chest. This idea instantly drives him to create and draw, and he is so happy with it. But as soon as he puts that idea to bed, who does he find in the pool? Who’s there? Misty… swimming again. Enticing him to develop that idea over again. To start again.

So Which Idea Is The Right One? Hahahah

Think about it. It’s all there for you to decipher for yourself. Misty isn’t real. “Why did you pick me?”… “Because I was drawn to you”. Seriously? That’s how this works? Ethan is living in this estate… (which, come on, Ethan couldn’t afford to pay the light bill on that place, let alone the taxes. This house is his mind. It’s obvious.) and she walks over and knocks on the gate, and introduces herself? She was working on a film across the street? What she means is this, she was the muse to the director, or the writer near by… Ethan’s artistic spirit drew her over. And she planted a new idea into his head.

When Ethan and Alice kill Misty, there is no sense of moral tragedy. No sense of impending doom. No worry about the car sitting in the driveway that is Misty’s! No worry about the film director that would be missing her soon. Because that wasn’t a thing. Ideas don’t get put on milk cartons people! So the murder of Misty wasn’t really a tragedy, well, morally, per se. It just is what it is. So are you picking up what I’m putting down? You buying what I’m selling. The thing that we are welcoming? Is the new muse’s idea. It is the creative’s desire to create. To make new.

I don’t know, what did you think about the movie Welcome the Stranger? What theory did I miss? What theory would write that would sum this movie up? Because that’s as good as I got.

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14 Responses

  1. Vic

    I was looking for explanations for the movie, and found this site.
    DANG. Yep, that explanation seems to fit perfectly!
    The one thing I don’t get is:
    so does that mean, we’re(Ethan is) better off working on the old idea we always have had on us, before moving on to the next idea(Misty); or that we should just give up the old idea, because new ideas are always coming in, and we may be restricting our own creativity/time, being stuck in an old idea/muse?
    Just some thoughts!
    Thanks for the enlightening text!

  2. JR

    Thanks for posting about this one! I like your theory – but I still can’t help but wonder, what is the significance of all the family drama, and how does that play into the muse theory? What does it mean that Alice turned out to be pregnant? Is that just the new idea bearing more fruit than the old idea (Misty)? And do you think there’s any significance to the title in relation to the Bible (where Jesus is the stranger in disguise)?

  3. Taylor Holmes

    Hey JR…
    It could be that the real world is percolating into his brain. That there is drama in his life about his sister, and her pregnancy, and their mother committing suicide. But practically, they could turn that all off here, inside his mind. Or, better yet, Alice is lying about the pregnancy in order to get more love, and more attention from her brother. Or the muse is anyway, you know what I mean.

    Just thinking out loud. Good questions.
    ps – we should find Justin Kelly and ask him directly… nm, I just shouted at him on Twitter. We’ll see if he responds. Would be nice to see what he thinks of my muse theory and if I’m just smoking crack.

  4. Vic

    Taylor Holmes

    Totally agree!
    There’s also the fact that she doesn’t look pregnant! That could be another hint!

    “Would be nice to see what he thinks of my muse theory and if I’m just smoking crack.” HUGE LOL

  5. Jamie

    Personally I found this movie to be extremely long drawn out, strange and boring.I thought the story hinted at incest which might be causing mental anguish and confusion with a hint of outerworld beings.Whatever the writer wanted conveyed in this movie…..left me unsatified with the storyline.

  6. rima

    i am still confused.
    incest love. forbidden. hence both alice and ethan go crazy.
    Mother comes from another dimension as girlfrnd to ethan.
    Tries to take him for herself. Just like past.
    the animated bee also enters ethans dimension through crack in the glitch of a portal. or thru some portal.
    revenge of mother on her daughter (alice) . bcos alice made love to mother’s husband. so mother comes from another parrellel universe to do the same to alice .
    she makes love to ethan as a girlfrnd. but loses. as ethan kills misty.
    Now after all this ethan tells alice to leave him alone. She cries and leaves.
    Next morning misty / mother/ girlfrnd comes back again from the portal .
    So winner is the mother.
    successful in taking revenge .

  7. Kyla Nicole Painter

    I’m still confused after watching it twice. To be fair, I only wanted to watch because of the sexy Ethan (Caleb Landry). But I will say, I had a strong feeling of incest in this film and it throws me off. No way a brother and sister that… “Loving”. If I had to sum it up, it seems as though he was sitting at his desk the whole time. And every other scene was imagination for his book. Didn’t he say he was writing too? Sure we saw drawings, but I feel like he was writing as well. If so, it seems plausible…. maybe. I’m confusing myself.

  8. Renee

    I also think it was about forbidden sibling love. I think the sinkhole is a worm hole that the Mother always knew about. And she could time travel. Mother adored Ethan but Ethan and Alice had an incestuous relationship. She happens on the worm hole and travels into the future.. pregnant..with Ethans baby. Maybe she runs into the Mother and the Mother sees her worst fear come true (Ethan and Alice together) so she either sends someone to take Ethan away from Alice OR has somehow come through as someone else. I also think the Mother always hated Alice because she thought that Alice was tempting Ethan to be incestuous. She comes though alive because they burried her in the worm hole. So confusing and bit of The Flowers in the attic coming through in my opinion

  9. Erin

    I think Renee is close minus time travel, Misty is the mother returning to protect Ethan from Alice from another dimension. Alice is destructive and selfish…she wants Ethan as her lover and partner without saying it, she wants him to make the choice. Misty (mom) tries to lure Alice away the first night, then tried taking Ethan next…neither worked so she became physical as a girlfriend to Ethan to convince him to go. Alice recognizes the illusion and does what she can to interfere. Terrified of the loss…she uses their psychic link to destroy the mothers connection to Ethan via misty’s murder…. which ultimately backfires destroying her future with Ethan and their unborn baby. The truth of their deeds repulses Ethan. He asks her to go, ending the unhealthy bond between them- causing the “miscarriage” of their incestuous future.

    The only other possibility that struck me is that one or both of them murdered their own mother. As the metaphorical ditch appears the first night Alice arrives. Neither of them want to acknowledge what truly happened….which is why they keep slyly referring to not knowing where she went. “She just disappeared”. With the presence of misty (who is the mother returned in dream form) the love is remembered and Ethan sees who his sister really is when she convinces him to kill the mother off again. He sees Alice as the selfish incestuous woman who destroyed her mother emotionally and literally. In asking her to go, their mother is resurrected in Misty, alive and whole.

  10. Issa

    That is an excellent conclusion. That narrator is a twisted genius, if i may say. As an artist i understand what is happening here, because sometimes ideas do not come easily believe me, and that some twisted way to show that. I did not understand the movie at first but that is one good way to end that craziness….

  11. Dan Tebasco

    I took it as Misty being the mother of the 2 returning as a ghost (or figment of both of their imagination). I believe they murdered her and she is lying in that sunken hole in the backyard and they can’t really face up to what they’ve done so that’s why this is all happening.

    Remember the film MYSTERIOUS SKIN? *SPOILERS* in that film there was a young boy who because he couldn’t face the fact that he was raped his mind developed a belief that he was abducted by aliens. There are alot of scenes of lights from the sky (potentially UFO lights) so that to me was a hint that both of the siblings were victims of sexual abuse from their mother (Misty), and that most likely normalized incestual relationships for them hence why they are attracted to eachother despite being siblings.

    There were also talks about the sister sleeping with the mothers partner (which could very well have been her own father). Also there was a picture in the film that the sister found looking around of what appeared to be Misty and a baby, quite possibly of Misty and one of the 2 as babies.

  12. Janie

    I believe their was an incestuous relationship between Alice & Ethan…they killed mom (probably instigated by Alice) Mom doted on Ethan and hated Alice for her incestuous relationship with the father. The sinkhole is where they buried Mom…Misty is the guilty
    memory of mom trying again and still to take Ethan from Alice. Both Alice and Ethan are “insane” with the guilt of killing mom and their forbidden feelings for each other.


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