This Guest Post comes courtesy of Daniel over at Daniel’s Film Reviews. Thanks to Daniel for the privilege of using one of his reviews; please go check out his excellent blog.
Release Date: May 30, 2008
Director: Bryan Bertino
Stars: Scott Speedman, Liv Tyler, Gemma Ward
Runtime: 86 min
Tagline: Lock the door. Pretend you’re safe.
The Strangers offers a spooky and fairly unique experience.
James Hoyt (Scott Speedman) and Kristen McKay (Liv Tyler) have just returned to a remote Hoyt family vacation home after a wedding reception. In the middle of the night, they get a knock on the door. The porch light is off, and the young woman is mysterious. Soon enough, they begin to get terrorized by three masked strangers. The couple find themselves thrown into a wicked game of cat and mouse. This violent struggle they have been unfairly plunged into makes them make quick decisions for survival that they never thought possible.
The Strangers offers a fairly unique experience, poor character development, and a fine story that plays out well.
The fact that this film is based on actual events (that happened in the director’s [Bryan Bertino’s] childhood neighbourhood) makes the film about twenty times spookier. That’s really what makes this hit closer to home, because it just makes you more aware than you already were that these sort of occurrences tend to actually happen a lot.
I usually really like watching this film because it often offers an entertaining experience, but I’ve seen it about four times and I think I’ve finally worn it out, and if I ever want to watch it again – it probably won’t be for another few years. Its ups are that it offers an entertaining ride, it isn’t all that time consuming, and it has some effective scares. The real scary thing about this are the masked villains, the true happenings of it all, and it’s a film that has a large abundance of fairly effective pop–out scares. It is more of a psychological horror/thriller because the killers terrorize the couple, and they really don’t rush to attack them – they just mostly use a whole charade of mind games at the start. Also, the use of music in this film is truly clever and very effective. There isn’t a whole lot of gore, only at a few scenes – so for those who are faint of heart won’t overly mind this one.
There are unfortunately a number of flaws for this one. A huge one is the unruly camera work, it isn’t like The Blair Witch Project bad, but it still isn’t very steady at all. The opening scene isn’t a huge flaw, but it just makes the conclusion really predictable. The character development is really quite awful. I always criticize this one scene, because one character is just so darn stupid (people who have seen this might know the scene I’m speaking of). The said character isn’t a major one, but I should make a commentary for that scene because they’re really that dumb. Anyway, the character development: the beginning doesn’t allow any great character development at all. It isn’t a huge plot point, but here’s your SPOILER ALERT warning anyway. Since Kristen declines James’ marriage proposal, the viewer may just see the female lead as cold-hearted, which in turn, doesn’t allow for a great view on the lead characters. Some of their decisions are just really stupid, too, because they really don’t believe in the buddy system at all.
It’s like they always want to be alone, which isn’t a clever idea in this sort of situation. One thing
I also greatly criticised in this viewing because I was looking for it, the terrorizers always knew wherever the couple was. It maybe took about ten to thirty seconds for them to locate each other. It’s a big property; it just shouldn’t be that easy!
I have three silly theories of how the strangers could find the couple so easily, so you shouldn’t really take them very seriously. The terrorizers must have ran into the couple beforehand, maybe the wedding reception or something, and put tracking devices in their drinks, and when the couple had digested the small devices, the strangers could just track them on a tracker and find them no problem. Or, my second theory, is that the masked strangers must have had a fourth party somewhere in the woods. That person would be equipped with night vision goggles, black clothing and would tell the strangers wherever the couple ended up. So if either James or Kristen had their back to a door, the person would be like: “Mr. Masked Man, one of the couple has their back turned to the house, so walk up behind them with an axe in a menacing manner.” And my third theory is that the strangers are simply a family of psychopaths who have psychic abilities.
The film is written and directed by Bryan Bertino, and stars Scott Speedman, Liv Tyler, Gemma Ward as Dollface, Kip Weeks as Man in the Mask, Laura Margolis as Pin-Up Girl, and Glenn Howerton.
The Strangers has quite a few flaws, from character development to pacing to an often lack of realism; but, it also offers some good entertainment, an effective use of music, an effective true story, and a good psychological ride. I did definitely like it enough to be excited for a sequel. I can recommend it to those who like psychological horror a lot, or lots of pop-up scares.