‘The Strangers’ Has Been There, Done That, But Has Some Scares

Yup, you guessed it. Liv Tyler trips when running away from The Strangers.

I like a good horror movie, so I am a bit conflicted when it comes to the movie The Strangers.

On one hand, this film has some of the creepiest imagery you’re going to see this year. The shots of the ghost-like faces in the dark stalking a young couple puts my hair on end. However, The Strangers ends up being a lot of imagery but not much substance.

The story follows a young couple (Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman) who are spending the night in a remote cabin. However, the night turns into a nightmare when three mysterious strangers attack them and torment them throughout the night.

There are really two main pros to this film. One is the aforementioned creepy imagery, and the other is a relatively short running time. Unfortunately, cool shots and fewer reels doesn’t save the film.

The Strangers suffers from lack of originality. I’ve seen most of this film in other movies, and as a horror fan, I found little that was new or innovative. In fact, the opening of the movie, which seems to emulate the narration at the start of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, gives everything away. This can work in some films, but when the main gist of the movie is for the audience to wonder if the good guys are going to survive, things get telegraphed a little too much.

In addition to the narration, the first scene shows the aftermath of the events. Were this now put in the film, I wouldn’t have been able to guess everything that was going to happen from moment to moment. And considering the characters act like morons through the film (e.g., when Speedman’s character tells Tyler’s character that no one is trying to break in right after the Strangers break in), they don’t even get the standard sympathy I afford horror movie victims.

In some ways, The Strangers reminds me of last year’s Vacancy, but without that much of a plot. I liked Vacancy, but The Strangers is relatively pedantic and vacuous, with the director choosing to only milk the simple story peppered with jump moments.

The film also reminds me of the cinematic turd that was Funny Games. While The Strangers is far superior than Funny Games (which isn’t saying much, considering my dog’s waste is far superior to Funny Games), it is cut from the same cloth. It revels in the psychological torture of the protagonists, and as callous as it sounds, the “heroes” make themselves victims more than they really should.

The Strangers is being billed as being inspired by true events. However, when you read about the real events (the Keddie Resort Murders), you’ll find that the true story is far creepier and terrifying than the relatively weak story you’ll see on screen.

Ultimately, though, if you want to watch a relatively simple cat-and-mouse suspense film with some really good jump moments so your date can hop in your arms during the film, The Strangers delivers in that department.

THE UPSIDE: Some awesome imagery.

THE DOWNSIDE: No surprises and just raw jump moments.

ON THE SIDE: Read about the Keddie Resort Murders. Waaaaay creepier.

Grade: C+

Kevin Carr crawled from the primordial ooze in the early 1970s. He grew up watching movies to the point of irritation for his friends and was a font of useless movie knowledge until he decided to put that knowledge to good use. Now, Kevin is a nationally syndicated critic, heard on dozens of radio stations around the country, and his reviews appear in a variety of online outlets. Kevin is also a proud member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Central Ohio Film Critics Association (COFCA).

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