The Strangers (2008)

Picture this. It’s about 4 a.m. You hear a noise. You tell yourself that it’s nothing, as usual, and go back to whatever it is that you were doing. Except this time, it really is something and that something wants to kill you. You’ve pretty much got your plot for The Strangers.Everyone has that fear of “the bump in the night,” but for Kristen McKay (Liv Tyler) and James Hoyt (Scott Speedman) that fear turns into terror, torment, and torture in this suspense/thriller.

After the couple leaves a friend’s wedding, they retreat to James’s family vacation home, conveniently located in the middle of nowhere. The couple, who is obviously having their problems, hears a knock at the door in early hours of the morning. A young, 20-something girl (Gemma Ward), asks “Is Tamara home?” Although the couple finds it strange, they tell her she has the wrong house and shrug her off as just lost and confused. More knocks on the door, crashes and bangs outside, losing all means of communication, and sightings of three masked strangers are the prelude for a terrifying, malicious home invasion that most of us could only have nightmares about.

One thing about this movie that jumped out at me is the direction. In his big screen directorial debut, Bryan Bertino really made three silly, white masks seem absolutely horrifying. When left in the hands of another director, three strangers in masks could have been sort of cheesy and laughable. One of the masks is simply a white cloth bag over someone’s head with holes cut in it for eyes and a mouth, but it is by far the scariest character. In a scene with Liv Tyler standing in a living room alone, you can see the bag-headed stranger standing behind her and watching her while she has no idea that he is even in the house. For me, that is the most chilling scene in the whole movie, but it could have easily been just average or a non-significant moment when directed by someone else.

Another aspect that caught my attention is not the acting of the main characters, Tyler and Speedman, but of the three strangers, Gemma Ward, Kip Weeks, and Laura Margolis. Unfortunately, I found the acting of Tyler and Speedman to be average and nothing special. You almost don’t even remember their performance when you are thinking back on the movie. The one thing you walk away from the movie with is the creepy feeling that three masked strangers leave you with. They have very few lines in the movie, but still manage to appear completely sociopathic and deranged. They even manage to make the lines that they did have memorable and unsettling enough to give you goosebumps. When Kristen asks “Why are you doing this to us?”, Gemma Ward’s character simply replies, “Because you were home.”

Overall, however, I am a little disappointed. This movie could have been so good and so scary, but unfortunately, the trailers ruined it for me. Almost every suspenseful, frightening scene and line in the movie was advertised in the trailers and the only thing that is left to figure out is whether or not the couple dies at the end. If only they could have left a little more to the imagination, I would have been much more satisfied with this movie. Even though I was a bit let down, it was still worth my money for the good directing and the creepiness factor of the masked strangers.

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