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HORROR DVD/BLU-RAY REVIEWS

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THE STRANGERS
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Reviewed by: Zombie Boy

Directed by: Bryan Bertino

Starring:
Scott Speedman
Live Tyler
Gemma Ward

Movie:  
star star star star
Extras:  
star star star star
Overall:  
star star star star
What's it about
A couple is terrorized in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night by a trio of masked assailants. You might want to put on some absorbent undergarments before pressing play.
Is it good movie?
James and Kristen think they’re having a bad night due to a problematic marriage proposal, but that becomes small peanuts once they get back to James’s parents house, out in the woods, of course. Three wingnuts in creepy masks have declared open season on the couple, and appear to have carefully designed their plan of action. Not satisfied to merely murder their prey, they seem intent on actually scaring them to death. They run around the house, in the house, over the house for all we know, making noises, writing messages on the windows, sabotaging phones and cars, and ultimately dividing and conquering before the pants-shittingly tense climax. Who knew Liv Tyler could act?

The Strangers is a wickedly sedate and subdued movie, and it is this quality that allows it to rise above the usual stalk and slash fare. Instead of jump out, boo scares, director Bryan Bertino prefers to have his villains melt out of the shadows in the background and simply stand inert, staring at the heroes as they go about mundane tasks. What sounds boring on paper is actually incredibly unnerving on screen. Which is not to say that there is no action in this film, because there is. Like in Chan-Wook Park’s Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, the quiet nature of the film and the subtle camera moves lull you into feeling safe, like it is going to be a boring movie, and then begins to make your skin crawl as it introduces the danger without ever increasing its pace...and then when there are explosions of extreme violence, you are disarmed and left breathless.

The Strangers is not without flaws. Unfortunately, with a little in-depth consideration, the whole premise falls apart. It is only the suspension of disbelief that we are asked to perform that lets us forgive the fact that the three villains would have needed a very long time to plan and rehearse such a meticulously, flawlessly executed night of violence. In the real world, your prey might not fall into the fear-mouse roles you plan for them quite so easily, especially if the selection was truly random. But since this is a film and not a documentary, I think it can be forgiven.
Video / Audio
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen, 2.35:1. Excellent use of shadows. One could argue that this movie would be even better in black and white.

Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, English only on the uncut, a French track on the cut, optional English, Spanish, and French subtitles on each. The sound is so important in this film, as music and offscreen sounds tell the story more than the dialog.
The Extras
The special features here take full advantage of the word slim: two short cut scenes and one short behind the scenes feature. The cut scenes are truly worthless. An extra few seconds of James before he proposes, and yet more exposition between the couple. The featurette is interesting in the fact that all the interior shots were done on a set, I never would have guessed that, but the self-aggrandizing that everyone does in their interviews gets old. Yes, it is a good movie, but no, it is not the best thing to hit horror since Bram Stoker (my analogy: nobody in the featurette claims that). Also, calling the DVD “two films in one” is more than a little disingenuous. There is exactly two minutes difference in the running time between the cut and uncut versions. Whoop-de-doo.
Last Call
The end result is that The Strangers is a creepy, effective horror film. It eschews bombast for style, and gimmick for home-grown terror. As long as you can look past the minor believability issues, you should have a good time getting nervous during this film. Just be sure to count your skin cells before you turn the lights off, so you can recoup them later after the all crawl off during the film.
ARROW IN THE HEAD'S RATING SYSTEM
star star star star I'D BUTCHER MY FAMILY TO SEE THIS AGAIN
star star star HANG ME BUT I DUG IT A LOT
star star AN OK WAY TO KILL TWO HOURS
star JUST SLING AN ARROW IN MY HEAD AND LET ME DIE IN PEACE

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