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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

THE STRANGERS (2008) - Bryan Bertino

Serial killers. Mask-wearing psychos. Two young lovers trapped in an isolated home. It’s been done before. To death. Yet this month, we see the release of The Strangers. A film that has those done-to-death elements. Yet it’s another attempt at scaring apathetic audiences with loud noises and jump scares. None of the psychology, all of the cheap thrills.

So we have two young people who arrive at a house off the beaten track, isolated somewhere in America. These two people are lovers, but they’re on a rocky road. Things aren’t going well for them. The house has been done up as a surprise for the girl who has just rejected her boyfriend’s marriage proposal. But things are about to get a whole lot worse. A faceless girl arrives on the door. She is the harbinger of doom. While she initially disappears, she returns with two other masked intruders who proceed to intimidate Kristen and James. Will they get out of this situation alive?

We’ve been here before. It’s ground that is well covered and executed in far better ways. Director Bryan Bertino has some good ideas but they’re not executed very well. While he avoids giving the audience anything sane to grab onto, he keeps his villains masked and anonymous. We never get the cathartic release of finding out who they are. It’s a shame that there’s little in the film to really scare. Shadows and jump scares are about the sum of the whole proceedings. If the sound were turned down a little, there’d be nothing at all.

Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman do their best with what they’ve got in terms of a script. But there’s little for them to do in the film. She just screams, he just runs around having one bad escape idea after another. In the end, there’s little for us to really grab onto and care about in these characters. The rest of the roles are either faceless or relegated to cameos that last mere moments. The direction is effective enough, I guess. But all that’s in the film has been seen before. Been there, done that.

At the end of the day, if you’ve never seen a horror movie before, I’m sure The Strangers would scare the bejesus out of you. But if you’re familiar to the genre, avoid it. It’s an absolutely tame Texas Chainsaw Massacre kind of film. Nothing to see here. Move along.


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