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.