I’m always wary of scary/horror movies these days. Ever since “Saw”, horror movies have taken a downward turn. It’s all torture porn. Nobody wants to creep you out and make you squirm in your seat just as a result of mood. It’s all body parts and graphic violence. And you know what? There’s no imagination in that. And imagination is exactly what your audience requires to be scared in their seats. (Do I sound like gramps yet? “In my day, movies didn’t have blood and guts. We only had rubber spiders…”. Oh yeah, and “Blood Feast” by Herschell Gordon Lewis.)
Well, “The Strangers” is a movie that knows a little something about scaring the audience. This movie is just mood and full-on creepiness. This premise is so simple, I bet there isn’t a suit in Hollywood that could’ve imagined it possible. Three people in masks terrorize a couple in their house. That’s it. No complicated plot where foreign hotties lure tourists into a building where angry businessmen torture them in all sorts of insidious ways. No preachy psycho trying to teach you how precious life is via insane torturous contraptions and puzzles. This is the “less is more” school of horror. And it’s way better.
We get to know this couple a bit first. They’ve come home from a friend’s wedding reception and by their expressions we can see they’ve had some kind of relationship altering conflict. Things are very quiet in the first act. The music is great; very eerie and sets the mood. Then there’s a knock at the front door. Things get creepy. And they just get creepier and creepier. Dare I say spine chilling? Yes. Yes I do.
The location is great, too. It’s sort of a house in the woods thing. Darkness between trees, corrugated barns in the back yard, trees, dammit, too many trees. You can hear footsteps between those trees. Masked figures drift out of shadows. This is seriously unnerving home invasion stuff the way it used to be made.
And don’t worry about hardcore gore. There’s some blood, but the messiness is kept to a minimum. And just when I thought maybe the tension was being dragged out too long, it shifted gears and went into the last act. Here is where I can see why there might be some complaints. There won’t be any great revelation at the end of this film. The resolution is short, but this isn’t the point of the movie, people. It’s not the destination, it’s the journey that makes this so good. Doesn’t matter who or why, just sit back and enjoy the ride. It’s purely atmosphere and scares. Does that make it fluff? Maybe. But you’ll enjoy it just the same. Hey, you like potato chips, right? No? What are you, a freak?
The acting is all pretty good, too. Liv Tyler is great. Even Scott Speedman is makes it work. And our three Strangers are the last people you want to see anywhere.
We need more of these kind of horror movies as opposed to the potential onslaught of “Saw 15’s” or “Hostel 9’s”. Being grossed out isn’t nearly as fun as being scared to the point of wetting yourself. I want chills that will stay with me for days, even weeks later. This movie will do that. Plus the subject matter is well within the realm of possibility, which adds to the fright. In fact, they say this is “inspired” by real events. Is it? Who cares? It’s still really effective.
I don’t care what else you heard. This is actually a fun scary movie. Guys, take a date and she’ll be clutching your arm, unless she’s soulless or dead, in which case you probably shouldn’t have brought her to the theater.
—Neil Weakley, your average movie goer who may or may not have peed his pants.