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The Strangers(2008)
Written by: The Arrow
Director: Bryan Bertino

Starring:
Scott Speedman/James
Liv Tyler/Kristen
7 10
PLOT-CRUNCH
James and Kristen (yes… she’s his girl) hit an isolated summer home for some romantic RnR and wind up being terrorized by three masked loons who have “kill” on the fritz.
THE LOWDOWN

Because you were home. - A stranger

Before I begin my review of the THE STRANGERS, I’d like to give the Studio behind it (Universal that is) a standing-o for their razor sharp marketing of the picture. The teaser trailer had to be creepiest I had seen in a while and what followed in terms of promo hit the spot as well. Now, I caught the film late, hence got wind of the negative joo-joo that spilled out about it before my screening. Yes, it got me a tad nervous since I was really looking forward to this one. But now that I’ve seen this lean and mean machine, I feel relieved. Although not the masterpiece I was hoping for, I still had a seat chewing good time at the movies with it!

THE STRANGERS started off on the right kitchen knife stab, giving us two ordinary folks and a situation we can pretty much all relate to and then it pulled the safety net from under them and us to go buck wild with the horror. And it worked on my sorry ass. The somber cinematography set the mood, the anxiety laced build-up as to the outside threat gave me the willies (awesome use of the mundane and sound to scare us here). And once it was clear what the motive (or lack of) was as  the flick went into full blown, extended, stalk sequence mode; they had me firmly by the jewels and didn't let me go till the end. In fact, my stones are still sore and bruised as I write this!

Props to first time director Bryan Bertino for having me wiggling in my seat like a schoolgirl about to get her first case of “the curse”. Man I was feeling it! The pacing was unapologetically furious while the suspense charged set pieces were ably structured and executed resulting in maximum pummeling on yours truly. And the fact that I kept thinking: “this is the kind of movie that would have no problem killing off its lead characters” upped my involvement in the knife happy shenanigans two fold! I cared for these people, I was frightened for them and I wanted them to live dammit! Add to that a sly use of music (dug them old ditties) that amplified the film's uneasy vibe, a refreshingly simple M.O. as to its storyline, an effective play on the “a white mask peering out of the darkness is spooky” device (thank John Carpenter for that one) and an uppercut ending that sent me to the mat crying for my mommy, and you got a simple (and dare I say "pure") hour and ten minutes of white knuckle - through the nihilistic ringer - fun!

On the flipside, it served THE STRANGERS well that its clock time was short and that it unraveled so quickly. That way, it was mostly by looking back that I picked up on the “dumb actions to serve the plot” executed by our heroes (Use that shotgun bro...come on!). And was I the only one that craved more Scott Speedman in the mix? I love the dude, l boogied to his character and when he vanished from the film for a while; I felt it. Finally the flick telegraphed a couple of its moves, hence making them quite predictable as to when they were coming up and what the outcome would be. In my book, if you're gonna embrace convention, at least go against the grain with your pay-off to back- hand your audience. Don’t do the same same old-same old, it weakens the knees! The Strangers was guilty of that a couple of times.

Overall though, I came out of THE STRANGERS a satisfied horror fan! The film wasn't perfect but it had its dead beat, f*ck you heart in the right place, sported mad skills behind and in front of the camera and when it was on the ball, it was on the MOTHERF*CKING BALL! I'll take that over some teeny bop, remake crap any day! Now lets slip on some masks and lets go whack my creditors - why? Because they were home! THAT'S WHY!

GORE
We get a shot-gunned face and some stabbings. Gore wasn’t this one’s main goal and you know what? It didn’t need it.
ACTING
The great Scott Speedman (James) and the still cute Liv Tyler (Kristen) were in the moment, credible and even when the script would work against them with “trivial moves”, they would sell me on them via solid chops. Aces!
T & A
Na and thing!
DIRECTING
The flick often reminded me of a suspense party favor from the 70’s in it’s bleak, tension driven, “camera over the shoulder” abusing and “quick cut” free approach. They went old school here! Thank you! I needed that!
SOUNDTRACK
We get a minimalist and somewhat chaotic in its order score and a chilling use of old school tunes (record player/scratched records and all). Both really jacked up the spine-chilling factor of the film.
BOTTOM LINE
THE STRANGERS had a bang-on cast, genuine tension, solemn visuals, an unsettling mood, a genius use of sound and an effortless pace. Granted the script sometimes went the “duh” way to force the events in the direction they HAD to go and having Speedman be absent for so long hurt the flick in my opinion. But as the end credits rolled, I was one happy camper looking to get laid and then slaughtered by some dude wearing a hockey mask. Always a good feeling to have! Question is… will you feel the same?
BULL'S EYE
The flick was shot in South Carolina, USA.

Scott Speedman was born in London, England but raised in Toronto, Canada.

Model Gemma Ward plays one of the killers.

They say that the film was based on a true story. But I couldn't find any true story that matched the events in this film; Manson stuff aside.

STALK THE STRANGERS OFFICIAL SITE HERE