Saturday, November 22, 2008

Review: The Strangers

I finally caught The Strangers on DVD after a short theatrical run here. Which is insane really, because I have seen a lot of crap in theaters this year that played much longer.

After attending a wedding, Kristen (Liv Tyler) and James (Scott Speedman) return to James's family vacation home. Not long after their arrival, the young couple find themselves being terrorized by three masked individuals.

This is the kind of movie that scares me deeply, because it could actually happen. I grew up watching Freddy, Michael, and Jason but they don't scare me because of the fantasy element. I don't believe Michael Myers will be knocking on my door anytime soon. But real crazy people? They're out there.

One of the scariest things about The Strangers is that we don't get any info about the attackers. No motivation. They don't target Kristen and James because they hold a grudge. They target them simply because they are home.

The Strangers reminds me of two other movies: Funny Games and Vacancy. The first I haven't seen, but the latter I enjoyed, more than The Strangers. There's something so unsettling about The Strangers that makes it hard to enjoy and maybe it's not even the terrorizing. Kristen and James are having problems in their relationship. James has just proposed and Kristen said 'no' (ohww, you're a fool, Kristen!). They as a couple are hard to watch. In Vacancy, Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale are having marital problems, and, if I remember correctly, are about to divorce. Their arguing is more amusing than unsettling. They as a couple have more screentime together and actually work together to survive the ordeal. It's easier to relate to them than it is to Kristen and James.

Our unlucky couple splits up twice in the film. Both times we follow Liv Tyler around while Scott Speedman in all his gorgeousness is nowhere to be seen. I'm not sure why this is. Watching Liv as Kristen cry and crawl around is not all that interesting. I was half expecting her in horror movie cliché style to stumble across James's body and that would've been the last we've seen of him. Lucky for us the movie avoids that, but the reintroduction of James is not that earth shattering either.

And the ending.. my God! First, after all that terrorizing the maskies just sorta awkwardly stab them and leave them to bleed to death. They are eventually found and Kristen is not dead. Yet the movie announces at the beginning that it's unknown what exactly happened to them. If Kristen survived, how could people not know?

I'm not hating on this movie though. It's one of the better movies I've seen this year and it includes the most haunting scene I've seen in ages. When James's friend, the It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia dude, is walking down the hallway and one of the strangers is following him with an axe.. well, that was just beautifully shot. I felt the atmosphere. The entire movie is well shot. The performances are good. The first half of the movie is pretty great.. too bad it falls apart in the second half. A 4/5.

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