Sunday, October 26, 2008

Movie: "The Strangers"

Genre: Horror
United States, 2008 U.S. Release Date: 5/30/08
Running Length: 1:25
Cast: Liv Tyler, Scott Speedman, Gemma Ward
Director: Bryan Bertino
U.S. Distributor: Rogue Pictures

As far as I am concerned the horror industry has been stacked more times than a vampire in Buffy, The Vampire Slayer series. There is always a new titan boogeyman to come and scare the living hell out of people, yet the usual outcome is a tickle in the chest and a what-the… facial expression. When “The Strangers” popped up advertised as “a couple in a solitary house, where things go horribly wrong”, it didn’t arouse much interest, but I watched it despite myself guided by the shiny name of Liv Tyler.

“The Strangers” is a very Spartan horror movie, edging more to the suspense genre, and uses the simple formula: a fighting couple + three weirdoes in masks + torture porn = dread + screams. Somehow that worked nicely. After the late reception of their friends’ wedding and a miserably failed marriage proposal, James Hoyt (Scott Speedman) and Kristin McKay (Liv Tyler) drive back to their remote summer villa to lick their wounds and kill off the awkward tension between them. However they have no idea that the tension might end up killing them.
One psycho blond girl (Gemma Ward) asking for non-existent people and a joyride for Speedman to clear his head, we witness Tyler’s coronation as scream queen, when things go horribly wrong. We have the usual scare techniques: vanishing silhouettes, rapping on the windows, knocking on the doors, disappearing phones and ominous messages. Late in the movie the psychos enter stage right armed and freaky and the whole house receives a redecoration in red.

What I enjoyed in the movie was the concept of fear. Most people fear the unknown. It has been always so. It’s always been the faceless shadows that made your blood turn into popsicles and we have our confirmation of the same maxim. You don’t have zombies or monsters or freaky magic, what you get is human nature at its worst and the fact that neither one of the characters saw it coming, from where, why and who, makes it scarier. By erasing identities the movie has the power to place the viewer in the characters’ places, since the theme is pretty universal. The feeling of dread is ever so present and half of the time you are ready to scream, but scare doesn’t come and you just have to sit and watch and wait. Torture porn for the viewers as well as for the characters.

But as people mention in reviews, the stake made it halfway through the roasting process. The film critics are in complete dissonance, of what the movie is: masterpiece of horror or utter crap. New York Times calls it “A Crescendo of Intimidation”, while the Times UK comments: The usual stupidness ensues. “Stay here darling with the axe-wielding psychos while I go and get help,” says Speedman. Ugh. The apple of content lies within the characters and their reaction to the situation and its circumstances. First of all the whole relationship drama, the movie wastes around 45 minutes for is irrelevant for the plot, furthered nowhere, thus an irritation. I usually wouldn’t mind the victim to experience a meltdown, lay on the ground and hand the killer the weapon of choice, but I certainly don’t like people, who are attempting to save their lives and all they do is screw up every other time. It’s not plausible to think with survival instinct and all, arm yourself and then lose your weapon, composure or split up and not deciding that a nice old ambush would solve their problems.

As an experience “The Strangers” offers quite the breath stopper, but once the adrenaline rush passes you think on plausibility, it’s not as great as you thought. But we watch movies for experience right, so who cares.

Additional Reviews:
~ New York Times ~ The Hollywood Reporter ~ ReelViews ~ Daily News ~ San Francisco Chronicle ~ Washington Post

And the trailer of course:


CaroleMcDonnell said...

really good review! Glad that you included the links to the reviews and the trailer. I'll probably see this but you're right...a bit too familiar-looking. Another horror flick with cute young couple in solitary location. -C

daydream said...

They usually start like this. I want to watch a horror with a serial killer as the victim protag. Will be inovative.

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