Ken's Review: The Strangers - Your Typical Horror Film
by Ken Evans
June 2, 2008
I'm a sucker for horror/slasher movies. That doesn't mean that I like very many of them, it just means that I'll give just about any of them a chance. Usually the trailers turn out to be better then the actual film because, let's be honest, most of them turn out to be total crap. The biggest problem I have is getting someone to go watch them with me. Even The Strangers, which I thought had a pretty intriguing trailer, was a hard sell with my friends. It took me an hour just to talk my brother-in-law into going to see it with me. Unfortunately, it turns out that as intriguing as it looked, it didn't really bring anything new to the horror genre.
James Hoyt (Scott Speedman) and Kristen McKay (Liv Tyler) have planned on a weekend alone together in Hoyt's parent's vacation home. Coming from their friend's wedding, James and Kristen don't seem to be on speaking terms as both are silent and Kristen is crying. Obviously it appears that they had gotten in a fight and it looks like their weekend is ruined. As they slowly start to talk again, they are interrupted by a knock at the door. Their relationship problems become the least of their worries as three strangers begin to terrorize the couple and make them fear for their lives.
All I can hope for with any new horror film is that the writer or director is going to surprise me with something new. I want to see a new plot besides people stuck somewhere and trying to survive from the attacks of a killer. I'm tired of being able to predict every move that the victims are going to make. Anyone that has seen one horror film can guess the plot and sequence of events in almost every other horror movie. The Strangers just gave us the same thing we have already seen, but at least it did it well.
I'm not going to lie to you, this is just people running around trying to escape the gruesome death that they know is awaiting them if they get caught. However, the writer/director Bryan Bertino did make some nice choices that made part of the movie entertaining and bearable to sit through. The first thing he did well was the choice to have a slow burn opening. There is about 30 minutes or so spent on the development of the two main characters before we get any sense that they are going to spend the rest of the film running for their lives. This development of characters is so crucial to any suspenseful horror film. Look back at movies like Alien or The Descent, where for the longest time you have no reason to think they will ever be in harm's way. It makes us feel comfortable and safe before the real horrific plot is sprung on us.
The other thing I enjoyed was the randomness of the killers. There was no time spent on their origins or on why they were doing what they were doing. They just randomly picked this couple to terrorize because they happened to be at home when they knocked. That is probably the scariest thing about The Strangers. They have no motive or reasoning for why they do what they do. Thinking about that actually happening is pretty scary. While I wasn't shaking in my chair, I made sure my door was locked after arriving home that night.
The Strangers started with some good ideas but, like most horror films, ended up going down the same predictable path as all the previous ones. About half way through, once we get to the shotgun part, everything becomes extremely predictable because we have seen it all before. Sure there are still some parts that made me jump, but only because of a loud sound or spike in the music. A promising beginning gives way to the same old drab that we have watched a dozen times.
This was probably one of the best horror films I have seen in awhile, but that isn't saying much considering the string of crappy ones we have had over the last couple of years. Liv Tyler actually pulls off a convincing scared-out-of-her-mind victim. However, Scott Speedman seemed pretty rigid and unaffected by the events going on around him. If you haven't seen many horror films, you will probably think this is scary. Admittedly the parts where the killers are in the room without the victims' knowledge was extremely creepy. But for you seasoned horror fans this won't bring much excitement and will have you walking out of the theater pretty indifferent to the whole experience.
Reader Feedback - 10 Comments
This movie had SOOO many suspenseful parts in it. I watch every horror movie that comes out, so if anyone's going to get tired of all the same old things, I definitely would be on that list. This movie did have some twists in it, and the Strangers don't kill them immediately. They terrorize them through the WHOLE movie, and it keeps you on your toes because you keep thinking the Strangers are going to kill them. I would highly suggest going to see this movie if you've been thinking about it at all.
Alison on Jun 2, 2008
I really enjoyed it as well. I was tensed up the whole time. And you are right in that he starts it off with us geting to know them and then the next hour is just slow building intensity.....omg. i needed a break after watching it.
Heckle on Jun 2, 2008
It had some major potential. It was great until a little bit after a certain gun mishap. Then it just got a little boring, and never picked up the way I wanted it to. At least it was something a little different for a change. I am tired of all the "seeing the future of peoples deaths/ phone call telling your death" type horror films that have been coming out the past few years. Not to mention Liv Tyler was stunning in this movie. It did surprising well in the box office. My theater was pretty packed, and I wasn't expecting it. Every other horror film I go to see there is usually dead, so I guess the trailer did a good job at getting people interested. The first scene were the stranger was in the room was incredibly creepy, and I usually don't get creeped out that bad but that was intense. I was like "wow, if I made this film I would be incredibly happy about that scene." Anyways a 6/10 would probably be what I would give it. A good film, but nothing incredibly different.
Joel on Jun 2, 2008
I agree with all of you. It has been A WHILE since a movie truly had mescared while watching. This was VERY tense with LOTS of good jump scenes that WEREN'T the cheap ones you would expect. I would probably give it a 7/10 though because it wasn't anything incredibly different like 6 said but it did have its own spin to things. I think why it do VERY WELL with $20.7M is because it didn't look like another gory horror. The gore was kept to a minimum which was appealing and was kind of like a throwback to the slasher flicks so I think more adults were more apt to brign their underage kids to get in because it was also something that reminded them of the past too. Technically this movie was AMAZING and the acting was above average for a horror. The director has a lot ofd potential but the script could have been a bit more sound and the ending (not the whole ending but the last second) was just unrealistic and typical. I also loved how that THE STRANGERS were strangers to us too. How we never saw their faces and that just made it so much more unsettling, espcially with them being casted by pretty much nobodys. Very memorable villians who I wouldn't mind seeing again to get to knwo more about them.
Ryan on Jun 2, 2008
I pretty much agree with Ryan (#4) up to a certain point. I DON'T want to get to know the bad guys. The seeming randomness is what makes it terrifying. By not revealing the killers' motives, it pushes the audience to identify with the victims. And the scene with baghead in the background has got to be one of the most satisfyingly creepy scenes ever. Most films would just show a quick flash of someone walking in the background and play some obnoxious sound cue. But to hold that shot with him just eyeing Liv in complete silence...Directors got serious chops.
jason_md2020 on Jun 2, 2008
even when they unmasked, you still could tell what they looked like...fucking awesome.Saw it last night, verrrry good. People in the theater were acting fucking stupid, so they were ruining the quiet suspense parts, so I'll see again for sure. Horror sure, suspence yep, creepy freaky fuck yeah.
wm on Jun 2, 2008
This was actually a really good movie. i havent seen a good scary movie in a long time. scary movies these days are all about people diing like every 5 seconds and there is no suspense. im glad they made a movie (even though it can seem original) that has a lot of suspense and sense of fear and torture. My Favorite character in the movie was Doll Face. Gemma ward really made this character creepy and very good. I love the fact that in the movie they don't kill them right away even though they had a lot of chances to kill them, they just basically decided to torture them. Over all good movie. Good Job to all the actors
legend on Jun 9, 2008
i watched the strangers and it accually potraid 4 strangers yet only credits 3 is this true or im seeing things in the movie
stephen on Aug 21, 2008
ok so i have pretty much seen every horror movie under the sun, and rarely have i ever felt really terrified. House of 1000 Corpses, High Tension, and The Strangers are three films that have actually scared the shit outta me. The Strangers was truly a great and terrifying story, the characters were believable it was portrayed in a realistic manner. i am basically psyched that there is actually a WORTH WHILE horror movie, and i think that all shoud see it 🙂
lalafrog2003 on Oct 30, 2008
movie was gud ,but can anybody give me lil brief about what exactly happend i dint understand the movie after watching it twice....what was the motive of those 3 masked killers? y does that hapned?
hotty on Dec 5, 2008
Sorry, no commenting is allowed at this time.