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The Strangers (2008)
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Review Date: November 19, 2008
Director: Bryan Bertino
Writer: Bryan Bertino
Producers: Doug Davison, Nathan Kahane, Roy Lee
Actors:
Liv Tyler as Kristen
Scott Speedman as James
Glenn Howerton as Mike
Plot:
A young couple return home after a wedding, a little drunk, but also a little miffed at one another, as they seem to have squabbled, before re-entering their abode. Their petty squabbles fall by the wayside though, when someone knocks on their door at four in the morning, and the next thing you know, they’re being harassed by some “strangers” in masks. Scary? Yes. Original? Not entirely.
Critique:
An extremely effective claustrophobic horror picture that starts slow but ultimately provides us with plenty of suspense all the way through to its very dark ending, which despite working from a narrative point of view, didn’t really “fulfill” me the way I would have liked. That said, I can’t take anything from the writer/director Bryan Bertino, who managed to create a very intense and chilling horror movie that will most certainly scare the shit out of most viewers, especially those who will be brave enough to watch it alone at home and in the dark. I had a honey-bunny nuzzled into my right-side during the entire movie, but that certainly didn’t make any of it less creepy. One of the best parts about the film is that its baddies, impressively camouflaged in “happy face masks” or just a simple “bag with holes in it”, did everything in their power to essentially just scare the poor saps stuck in the house, while at the same time, building up the questions as to who they were, and what exactly they wanted. By the end of the film (it only lasts about 90 minutes), we’re given somewhat ambiguous answers to both of those questions, and even though that worked for me in terms of the film’s storyline (maybe these are just some really “messed up people”), I can’t say that I was happy about it.

Kudos to Bertino for building the tension nicely though, with lots of silences, creepy voices, jump scares, use of songs and a sharp eye behind the camera, as well as plenty of steady-cam work to give it all more of a voyeuristic feel. I also have to give it up to both Liv Tyler and the great Scott Speedman, both of whom pull off admirable performances here, and who should be commended for being able to maintain that level of fear throughout most of the picture. The film isn’t entirely original though, as I can name several movies in which folks are terrorized in their own homes, or even in motels and shit (see VACANCY from just last year), but that doesn’t make the film any less effective, in my point of view. In other words, if you want to get the shit scared out of your ass, or you just want a girl you like to nuzzle herself into your right-side, check out this film in the pitch dark, but don’t expect some kind of revelatory ending, because there won’t be one coming. The movie ends on a note as black as my socks, which for a horror film, can’t be considered all bad, when all is said and bludgeoned. For me though, I’m just not that into such morbid films, so for that personal reason alone, the film didn’t score a little higher in terms of my grading, but really, it’s a pretty damn terrifying movie.
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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