Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Review - The Strangers

Based on true events and directed by first timer Bryan Bertino, The Strangers tells a story of a young couple who retreats to a vacation home after a friends wedding. The couple is then faced with a haunting shock when three masked assailants begin to terrorize them in what becomes the struggle for their lives. Scott Speedman and Liv Tyler star in this Horror/Suspense film.

The Strangers is a film I have been excited for quite some time. Having seen the Rogue panel at last years Comic Con, The Strangers looked very promising and did not disapoint at all with its final product. It delievered for me all the way around from the performances, the direction, the dark tone, the eerie score, and the suspense that keeps rolling all the way to the climax.

Speedman and Tyler are great together in this film. Their performances were very strong as a couple that are coming to a crossroads in their relationship and also a couple that is faced with a terrorizing reality of three masked strangers. Tyler especially fits well into the hapless female role who spends most of her time trying to hide from the assailants. Furthermore, I was totally invested in their characters. I cared what happened to them. Too many times I hate the main characters or think they are so stupid by the end of the film, I do not care what happens to them. The rest of the cast, "The Strangers," Gemma Ward, Kip Weeks, and Laura Margolis were perfect together as well. The three of them played well of eachother with very limited dialogue. I loved how at points they seemed very childlike and awkward. Really added to the eerie tone. I would hate to have those three knock on my door at 4am.

Bryan Bertino did an amazing job with this film's tone and suspense. From beginning to end the viewer is sucked in, and on the edge of their seat for a great thrill ride full of screams and jumps. Bertino also does fabulous work with the strangers and their appearences. Very eerie and awkward, especially all of their masks and the stoic looks they gave off. I loved how they strangers would appear and disappear so effortlessly. I really loved that the masked man had asthma, it made him feel real like that was an witnesses account in the true story while adding another level to the villians.

Another aspect I truely found refreshing of Bertino's direction was the limited amount of gore. He used suspense as his main scare tactic and it worked. Too many films today have adapted the Saw/Hostel technique of just grossing out the viewer, the strangers was successfully quite the opposite. It instead set errie tones with its soundtrack, the work of shadowplay with the masked assailants, and the hide and go seek nature of the terrorizing that ensues. The idea that you never knew what surprise was around the next corner kept the intesity rolling all the way through.

I only had two gripes with the film. Some of the camera work seemed to take away from the film. Most of the film does not utilize a steady shot. While this shaky or jittery camera work, works well during the suspense and chasing scenes, it feels disturbing during some of the early scenes that setup Tyler and Speedman's characters. The two of them would be in very involved dialogue while camera dances around them, making the scenes very distracting to the eye.

My other problem was pretty standard for a horror film, the victims decisions. Two times in the film Speedman leaves Tyler alone after knowing of these intruders! That seems plain stupid, I would never leave the woman I love alone to go pick up ciggerates after some weird girl knocks on my door at 4 am. Sure honey, I know there's a weird girl out front and its 4am, but I'll be right back. No way!!! Like I said, what horror movie aren't you yelling at them like, "what the fuck are you doing!!!" It is as typical as laughing in a comedy. So really, its a tiny gripe that didn't really effect my mood towards the film.

The Strangers was awesome, it was dark and scary, it made me jump, and it was totally believable. The fact that this film was based on a true story really added to the films intensity. Unlike, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which is also based on true events, this film seems like something that could happen to anyone. The three masked assailants are normal people who are intrigued by commiting a vicious act and when asked why they chose them, simply replied, "because you were home." The delivery of that line was daunting and sent chills racing down my spine, eventhough I had already heard it in the trailers. From beginning to end the Strangers is great and one of the better horror films of the last few years.