Review: The Strangers (2008)

The Strangers (2008)
Starring: Scott Speedman, Liv Tyler
Directed by: Bryan Bertino
Written by: Bryan Bertino
Rated: R
Rating: 1/2 (half star out of five)

A young couple who are having temporary relationship issues return home after a friends wedding. They are then terrorized by three people in masks, who haunt their every turn until the ending we pretty much saw coming before we bought the tickets.

To quote Roger Ebert in his review of this movie: “What a waste of a perfectly good first act! And what a maddening, nihilistic, infuriating ending!” He then describes how he read an interview with the director who said it was his first directorial job ever. This prompted Ebert to bump his review up 1/2 a star because he felt the director at least had the “chops” to make a movie. I disagree.

There was nothing original about this movie; there was nothing that I hadn’t seen before in another film that did it one-hundred times better. I hate to say it, but I was bored. First, let me pick apart the bulk of the film.

Funny Games (the original in 1997, not the remake) was brilliant, in my opinion. Daring, original, and truly frightening. Except for the quirky twist during the climax, the film was startlingly realistic — there were no scenes of people behind you with a knife one second and the next they are gone. If those bad guys were behind you with a knife, you were going down.

Where The Strangers fails is it’s attempt to scare the audience instead of it’s on-screen victims. While getting a movie-goers pulse pounding is important, theres a certain sweat that grows when you know what you’re witnessing before you is real, it’s possible. This one wasn’t. While some shots were simply creepy (namely the first time we see the masked male when our “heroine” is in the kitchen), they quickly loose their appeal. There’s one scene where Liv Tyler is crawling on the ground and for a split-second, there’s a menacing figure with a knife behind her, then it’s gone — and Tyler doesn’t even see it. It’s a scare for us, not for the character, which renders the scare pointless.

I wanted to say that the beginning of the film was good, with some decent building of suspense and drama. Unfortunately, the filmmakers had to ruin it with a terrible voice-over and awful, just plain awful, captions telling us this story is supposedly “based on true events.” Had the filmmakers started the the movie with Tyler and Speedman driving home from the wedding, the first act would have been fantastic (hence Ebert’s comments).

I never expected the end of it to be anything less than mediocre at best. Instead, they went for three or four cheap, cop-out moments that either make the audience scream or go “Oh, how dumb.” Most said the latter.

The only scares this movie has to offer are a few creepy moments at the beginning, and then a bunch of extremely loud crashing noises that would make anyone jump in their seats. And, as horror fans know, those don’t count as true scares. It’s mediocre at best, terrible at it’s worst. Boring overall.

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