The Strangers (2008)
Reviewed on 2008 May 30
I have to admit, I had an uh-oh moment with the very opening of this movie: a portentous voice helpfully narrating the on-screen crawl reminding us that what we are about to see “is based on actual events”. I’d been anxious to see this thing, and was worried that director and writer Bryan Bertino was going all Quinn Martin on us. Now I wonder if that was a tactic to lull us into expecting a run-of-the-mill horror movie, just so he could whale on us for the next 85 minutes. This was scary. It didn’t help that another lady and I were the only two people rattling around in the theater. It helped even less when in the middle of things the power went out, making the sound grind down to an eerie crawl and plunging the theater into blackness.
James Hoyt (Scott Speedman) is already having an awful night. He’s taken his girlfriend Kristen McKay (Liv Tyler) from a wedding they attended to his family house in the country, champagne in the ’fridge and a ring box in hand. The fact that she turns him down doesn’t make us like her any less, and his response of attacking a tub of ice cream, instead of anger at her, endears him to us. That’s the only info we really get about them, but it’s enough to make us feel frightened for them as the night wears on. They’re terrorized by a group of strangers, and if you watch this you’ll see why anyone that tells you more about the plot than that needs a good beat-down.
This wasn’t the current blood ’n’ guts type of movie that’s been done to death like Hostel; this was more tension and atmosphere than anything else, and it reminded me of something Hitchcock would do. It even made a yelpy, yodeling bluegrass record scary. The realistic acting made the whole thing even more brutal.
Three chocolate morsels, and a swig of champagne.