Monday, May 17, 2010

Oh, The Horror! #51: The Strangers

This film being Bryan Bertino's first theatrical directorial prosper shows a ton of promise within the horror realm. The movie stars Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman (glad to see he's still getting some work) as a couple dealing with their relationship after James (Speedman) proposes to Kristen (Tyler) but sadly gets a rejection. The two drive off to their summer home where it is awkward between them. When things finally start to look a bit better for the two, there's a knock on the door. "Is Tamara home?" asks a young woman at the door. After being sent on her way, James' character decides to take a drive in order to clear his mind while Kristen's character stays at the house... but she's not alone. "Is Tamara home?" girl shows up again and is then followed by a creepy man wearing a mask quietly stalking Kristen in the house. There are little subtle moments that add to the creepiness of this wonderful scene. Before James left, Kristen mentions that she was out of cigarettes, no cigarette in sight for her to smoke. After James leaves, Kristen is noticeably tense and picks up a cigarette not realizing it wasn't there before, adding a slight bit of uneasiness watching. Things also start to be revealed to have been misplaced and you see that creepy man standing somewhere in the background, still like a statue. Yeesh. Definitely my favorite scene in this whole film. When Kristen starts to realize something is wrong, she calls James back home and soon after starts to get terrorized by three different strangers, all making it seem pretty clear they're out to kill her. When James finally returns, he's added into the danger when he finds his car smashed in, and phone missing, leaving the couple vulnerable.

The performances of the lead cast I felt were very strong and really added a lot to the overall film. Bertino also has a wonderful idea on how to build up tension and creepiness extremely well, a craft that seems to be missing in a lot of horror these days. Bertino adds just a right bit of pace, music, sound effects, and jump scares that's easy to get someone uneasy. Despite everything that's going for it, the film falls flat. The story could be a lot better and although you're finding yourself tense and hoping the couple make it out in the end, you're left wondering to yourself, "What's the point of all this? Why am I watching this?" While the pace of specific scenes are superbly used, the overall pacing of the story seems very off and is a bit discouraging. It makes me think about how much I enjoyed Vacancy over this film.

Overall, if you're interested in seeing specific tense rising scenes, Bertino's clearly shows he understands the craft. You can check it out for that. If you're looking forward to see a solid story, something that will shock and get into your head, I wouldn't recommend this. I will say, though, this film does a lot better job in actually scaring you than the recent Saw and Hostel films. While you can see this film as a slasher film and there is some gore, its the uneasiness that works well and places itself in a higher position that the torture-porn films with almost to no substance.

1 comment:

Tristan Huw Jones said...

Agree with you on every beat there dude! I saw this one in the cinemas here in Aus and came away thinking pretty much exactly the same thing.

Hey, hit me up with an email when you can, let me know how you've been! I had to change my address, so it's tristan.h.jones (at)