Holy Crap! That's about all I could say when I finished The Strangers last night. But I'll get there eventually.
First off I have to say I was already scared as I sat down to watch the movie. I'd been waiting quite a while to see this one and I'd worked it up in my head as just about the scariest thing ever. Well it may not have been the scariest thing ever it did have me on the edge of my seat, yelling at the screen, and jumping at ever noise in the house. (All houses make noise but why, oh why did mine have to pop right by the front door just as someone banged on the front door in the movie?!?!)
And I have to admit it apparently shook me up more than I'd realized as I slept horribly last night, tossing and turning and constantly looking up to see if there were any masked faces in my bedroom. Clearly the movie had the desired effect: it scared me, a lot.
The movie begins with an ominous warning that it is inspired by actually events (something I'll get to later) and begins by showing us the aftermath of the evening, a bloody knife, blood on a wall, cars with large holes in the window, and lets us know that the exact nature of what went on is still unknown. Then we cut back to the previous evening.
James (Scott Speedman) and Kristen (Liv Tyler giving an award winning performance*) are returning to his families summer home from a wedding and a disastrous proposal attempt. As the couple tries to figure out how to act around each other following their fight we get a sense of the house and the open area around it. Writer/Director Bryan Bertino gives us plenty of time to get to know James and Kristen as we ratchets up the suspense and it works wonderfully making you care for the characters, unlike most horror movies. Once the couple answer a knock at the door the movie becomes a study in suspense and terror that does not relent.
Normally I'd go into lots of details about the movie, but to be honest its one that needs to be entered into without much information. Most of what you need to know can be found elsewhere on this blog or in the trailers but I'll do a quick recap. Before long James and Kristen are terrorized by three strangers, a man and two women, wearing masks that are honestly creepy as hell. The girls wear porcelain masks that look like dolls, while the man, clearly the leader wears only a burlap sack with eye holes in it.
I will say that the most terrifying moment in the film can be glimpsed in the trailer it's the moment, seen above in the poster, when the man enters the house while Kristen is there alone. For what seems like forever, but was probably less than 2 or 3 minutes we see him simply standing in the back staring at Kristen with her not having a clue that he's there, or that anything is wrong. It is a truly unnerving scene and left me curled up on the couch.
Included on the DVD is a short making of and I liked what one of the crew said. He described the movie not as a horror film but as a terror film. It's job is not to scare you with clever jump scenes, but instead to terrify you throughout the entire film. In this sense I felt it succeeded.
Now I would be remiss if I did not mention the fantastic score and sound editing for this film. These guys should win an Academy Award, not be nominated but win. Without the score and all of the sound this movie would not be a tenth as scary as it is. But the movie makes great use of the sound to play with your feelings, scare you, and keep you on edge. The numerous sound people did not miss a single beat in this film and the movie is seriously rewarded because of it. If you do not leave the movie haunted by the sound then something is seriously wrong with you.
Now about this "Inspired by True Events" warning: Some feel it's placed there to scare people more, and maybe it is. But, Bertino wrote the movie because of an incident in his life. Now nothing like what happened in the movie actually happened, but Bertino says that one night when he was younger he was home alone and someone knocked on the door asking for a person who didn't live there. The next morning he found out his neighbors house had been broken into. From there it seems he spun off this terrifying tale. And that's the extent of the "True Events"
I'd recommend this one to anyone who likes to be scared, but you might not want to watch it alone.
*She won the Spike Scream Award for best Actress in a Horror Movie