, 86 min, 2008
Director: Bryan Bertino
Writer: Bryan Bertino
Stars: Scott Speedman, Liv Tyler, Gemma Ward
The Strangers is a creepy, somewhat scary (at times), but ultimately none-too-effective horror chiller, “inspired by true events” (which could’ve been the same as anything from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to the Manson Family).
In 2005, a young couple (played by Scott Speedman, formerly of TV’s Felicity, and Liv Tyler, formerly of Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler’s loins) attended a friend’s wedding and then headed to a family vacation home in the middle of a quiet, isolated area. The guy proposed and the girl claimed she was “not ready” to accept.
This intriguing beginning would’ve made for a series of awkward attempts at conversation and a long dark night of the soul, but the film quickly shifts into terror mode with everything from a creepy girl appearing at the door, to a series of loud knocks, and finally three masked assailants taunting and scaring the bejesus out of the young couple.
This is sort of like the lead-up to Michael Haneke’s Funny Games (1997, remade in 2008) if the lead-up was 90 minutes long. This is basically a great 3 minute trailer or 30 second TV spot stuck inside of a pretty mediocre 90 minute film.
I learn that writer-director Bryan Bertino began as a key grip before making his directorial debut here. He shows he’s got the chops to make a good film, but not the material. The greatest assets of Bertino’s film are its cinematography and a very effective sound design (notice one or two songs that appear to be commenting on the action, playing on an old record player).
A couple of decent chills recall the grand master of the genre, John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978), but unfortunately, by the end, it’s much ado about nothin’.