Playing with your mind and subconscious, The Strangers proves to make all the right moves in its quest to frighten and mortify. As a result, its viewers are taken on an emotionally intense ride through hell "“ one that will last too long and leave the audience in shambles as they exit the theater.
The night was set, flowers scattered around the remote suburban house, champagne on ice and a tub filled with candles. However, when Kristen drops the bomb by declining James' marriage proposal you could cut the tension with a knife. But all that becomes secondary when a startling late night knock arrives at the door. Sent through a treacherous whirlwind of antics, Kristen and James must go beyond their comfort zone, doing things that they never thought capable in order to survive a random night of terror.
Unlike any other horror movie I have seen, The Strangers failed to play it safe, instead deciding to break all boundaries and present a film that was both horrifying and mind boggling.
Expecting to be greeted with the standard terror scene that has become the benchmark for all soon to be horror classics, I found myself out of place when it didn't arrive. Instead, the audience was met with a ransacked home and a voiced-over 911 call. But within seconds we were taken out of hell and into heaven as a blissful wedding brought us face to face with our two lead characters.
With little information being given about either character, all I can really say is that Kristen McKay and James Hoyt are an official couple and have been for some time. And while it wasn't shown on-screen, body language and razor sharp tension easily revealed that during the course of the night James proposes to Kristen, who kindly refuses. Struck with a sudden awkward situation, James and Kristen attempt to carry on the evening like nothing has happened, but a small group of strangers have completely different plans for the pair.
Liv Tyler, most known for her work on the Lord of the Rings trilogy, plays the fragile and soft-spoken Kristen perfectly. Capitalizing on her emotional state and sense of uncertainty, Tyler is able to play to her strengths (quivering lips), and prove that she was born to play this part.
In addition, Scott Speedman, who received his rise to stardom in the film Underworld opposite Kate Beckinsale, brings James to life. Stuck with the woman who has just denied him her hand in marriage, Scott brings the inner turmoil and frustration that his character is experiencing to the forefront, making it the central point for his character. By doing this, Speedman is able to create a complex individual, a rarity in modern horror films.
While each character is unimpressive when alone, it is the combination of characters that truly makes this film work. Playing with their inner emotions and disorder, the events that are preformed on them by the group of strangers is nothing more than the 'last straw.' Stuck within their own tornado of events, the additional baggage clearly sends both of them over the top, making them act irrationally and impulsive.
With nowhere to turn and no one to call the chaos and mayhem continue to increase, up to a point where you in the audience cannot control yourself and start to beg for the victims to be put out of their misery and killed.
However, I do not want to take away from the amazing work done by the small number of persons behind the mask.
Not wanting to say too much, I prefer to leave much of these people a mystery, but I have to say that their every movement and action is perfectly placed, causing the most inner disorder on both Kristen and James and making their night a true living hell.
Yet even with all these pieces fitting in together, I have to say that the true 'it' factor for this film was the work done by director Bryan Bertino. Never relying on the presence of gore or blood, Bertino refused to give into the standards of present day horror genre. Instead Bertino uses his camera and some strategic lighting to capture the adrenaline and havoc that one experiences when put in this type of situation. His angles are perfect as they create an authentic aroma with the audience, and his ability to create a tense film with a peacefully sense of background scenery was a truly miraculous feat.
As the film comes to a close only one outcome seems possible. But then you begin to ask yourself: Are these people murderers or bored kids who want to spice up their night by bringing a little unwarranted anxiety and terror on a random home? Either way, this is one horror film that will send chills up your spine and have you begging to never be left alone again!!!