The StrangersFeature Film |
Home invasion, pared down to its terrifying essence.
The Strangers is a nearly perfect slow-building home-invasion horror film. Writer-director Bryan Bertino, making an impressive feature debut, keeps the scale intimate, drawing us into the soon-to-be-upended lives of James (Scott Speedman) and Kristen (Liv Tyler). After a silly voiceover tells us the movie is vaguely "based on actual events," there's a panicked 911 call and a bloody aftermath, and then nothing truly scary happens for about 40 minutes, as Bertino introduces the couple, on a tense drive home from a wedding, at which Kristen unexpectedly rebuffed James's marriage proposal. They arrive at his deserted family summer home and struggle with the sad consequences, before a startling knock on the door sends their night spiraling in an unexpected and horrifying direction, as three masked strangers play mind games on them throughout the night, with the threat of violence looming. Complaints about the killers' motives or about the film's "sadistic" nature suggest a lack of understanding of the nature of horror. Bertino's trembling handheld camera, and the brilliant way he uses sound design (the skipping record, the smoke alarm, the sporadic knocking) and mise-en-scene (hapless victims in the foreground oblivious to the quietly deranged masked killers in the background of several shots) suggest a master of suspense and terror at work.
|The Strangers Trailer|