We continue our journey through a month of frightening, bloody and violent films. For more, check out our 31 Days of Horror homepage.
Synopsis: A proposal gone sour, a night at a remote family home and two people who can barely look each other in the eye? What else could go wrong? A lot. The romantic night James (Scott Speedman) had planned for himself and Kristen (Liv Tyler) had already gone south before they even got to the house, but things take an even more upsetting (and unsettling) turn when an unexpected knock on the door invites a whole host of horror onto the couple.
When a masked figure comes into a room behind one of the film’s leads, you grip your seat waiting for the moment they turn around and discover they are not alone. The Strangers does not give you that release instead having said figure stand in silence (unmoving) behind Kristen for what feels like hours, just watching her. You almost think you are seeing things since everything else seems normal – except for this quiet intruder fixed in the corner. The scene goes against everything any horror fan has been taught to expect making it twice as terrifying as the anticipation continuously builds and neither person makes a move to break it.
As marked by the killer scene, The Strangers is more about the build up and moments that make you jump rather than ones that go in for the kill. There is a fairly gory kill shot that goes down, but once the strangers capture their prey the violence is almost intimate in its slow and intentional delivery. Shooting a guy at point blank range will cause a bloody mess, but looking someone in the eye while you purposely stab them is almost more brutal in my book.
James and Kristen come close to coitus on the dining room table (hey – the guy didn’t get a yes to his proposal, but Kristen is at least considerate enough to let him get some), but are interrupted before anything can happen. Outside of seeing Tyler’s bare back and her underwear being pulled out from under her skirt, there is not much skin here. (Additional apologies to those hoping Speedman went shirtless for at least a moment)
It is a slow burn of a film, but when the scares happen, they consistently keep you jumping. These tormentors are not ones to hide (they have masks on so I suppose in a way they are constantly hiding?), but the near blasé tendency they have to walk around makes things more upsetting because you never know when things are going to turn. And for those who wonder what would prompt people to do this, you get an answer here, but it may be the most unsettling part of the entire film. All-in-all, you end up spending about 90 minutes in a constant state of anxiety (and rightfully so).
If you are looking for a “typical” horror film with lots of scares, blood and gore, you may be disappointed here. I was sold on The Strangers from the poster alone that featured said killer scene mentioned above. I figured it was just a cool shot to show a stranger (clever!) in this woman’s home, but when the actual scene played out in the film, I knew this was a different blend of horror. It takes a while for the terror to ramp up, but once it does, it is pretty steady. If you get more pleasure out of the agonizing minutes leading up to a big scares, this is the film for you.