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Rental Review: The Strangers

October 12, 2008
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By Chad Larson

The Strangers is a movie I had been looking forward to seeing for quite a while. It was a movie that played on a feeling everyone gets – being home alone, on a dark night, and someone you don’t know comes to the door. In the trailers, we see a crying, bloody Liv Tyler ask her assailant “Why are you doing this to us?” and the masked attacker replies “Because you were home.” A pretty scary concept.

And the concept is built up well at the beginning of the film. We start off with a narrator describing that the story was based upon real events, and a description of the “real” events that it was based on. Then we hear a recording of a 911 call and see two young men finding a bloody house that’s wrecked. Then we see Liv Tyler’s character, Kristen, in the car with Scott Speedman’s James. Kristen has tears running down her face, and they sit in silence. They arrive at James’ family cabin, and we see that James had a romantic night planned with candles, scattered rose petals, and romantic music. James calls a friend to come pick him up, saying things didn’t go as planned. We learn that Kristen has refused James’ marriage proposal. A mysterious young girl knocks at the door at 4:00 AM, her face cloaked in shadow. When James leaves briefly, the girl and her accomplices, all masked, return and start terrorizing the couple.

The problem, like with so many good thriller concepts, lies in the execution. The movie skimps on background music of any sort, presumably for “atmosphere.” The buildup of the attack is excruciatingly slow, in an attempt to build suspense that is interspersed by the occasional “Hollywood Scare” which myself and my fellow viewer saw coming a mile away.

The movie is also filmed in a strange orange tone throughout that just seemed out of place to me. The concept is good, as I said – it’s a situation that, in theory, any of us could end up in. But in the end the movie tries way too hard to be suspenseful and scary, but comes off as boring and hokey with its repetitive jump scares.

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