Movie Review: The Strangers (2008)
I consider myself a very big horror buff, and many of my favorite movies are in the horror genre. Horror does something that no other types of movies can do – when they’re done right, they can make you feel for the characters that are being put through such emotions like fear and agonizing pain. Unfortunately, this is very rare in movies nowadays, and therefore very few distinguish themselves from the pack. The Strangers is a movie that stays with the pack for the most part, although it does provide a few scares in between forced writing and questionable acting.
The Strangers is based in a “true story” but it quickly dispels any true to life dramatization by then describing how no one really knows what actually happened. James Hoyt (Scott Speedman), and Kristen McKay (Liv Tyler) come home to a house with roses scattered throughout, and a romantic dinner set up. They are silent, which gives the impression that things did not go as planned and it is eventually realized they came from a wedding or engagement party. After a good 20 minutes of talking about what went on, someone knocks on the door asking for someone who isn’t there (who answers the door at four in the morning?). The knocks get progressively more violent, and eventually someone enters the house with a mask. This leads to these mysterious people terrorizing the residents of this home.
The biggest problem with The Strangers for me was most likely what others thought was the scariest part – the buildup. The audience saw everything before the characters did and this would have worked a lot better if something, hell if anything, actually happened during these times. Usually we saw the people in masks and they just stood there and after a few minutes of just standing there, they slinked back into the shadows. Some of the encounters were good, such as the one when James’ friend comes to get him, but for the most part the movie moves at a dead slow pace with little or no action. The few scares in the film are few and far between and none of them are overly impressive. Everything ends up playing out just as I had hoped it wouldn’t – no twists and no surprises – just ordinary fare.
The acting is another major negative in my mind, given that most of the film focuses on Liv Tyler who really just does not give a very inspired performance. We see her cry and scream but she never shows any type of redeeming quality or any reason why she would ever get out of this situation alive. In a specific instance, I was laughing out loud because of the way she was crawling through the woods and then just inexplicably tripped and fell in a big ditch. She made loads of noise but the people really didn’t seem to care much. Scott Speedman is in the movie for a considerably smaller amount of time than Ms. Tyler, and he actually seems like he may have some hope (but not much). As an aside, the movie also spent the bulk of the 90 minutes with a single dull camera shot that some people will say was nostalgic, but I just saw it as lazy and boring.
I had a lot of hope for this movie but it just seemed to want to be too much of a throwback to old-school horror movies without actually having any suspense or hope for these characters that I honestly did not care for. The relatively short 90 minutes feels a lot longer due to the small amount of tangible action, and the lack of direction. If you want a few jumpy scares then maybe go out and see The Strangers, but honestly the only ones this movie scared were a few of the teenaged girls in the front row.