Bryan Bertino’s debut film The Strangers is a suspense-laden chiller starring Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman as an unhappy couple terrorized by three sinister strangers. At a time when the Saw and Hostel style ‘torture porn’ movies are a la mode, The Strangers, with its more refrained style, is a refreshing change.
That said, this film is not original. It is a very similar story to French horror Them to name but one. Lack of originality aside, The Strangers is full of suspense and has so many edge of your seat, jump out of your skin moments that you are hooked to the end.The Strangers begins with a dubious claim that it is inspired by true events. This seems designed to make you feel uneasy from the start and although it may be at best a slight exaggeration, and at worst a complete fabrication, it certainly proves to be an unsettling notion.
We meet James and Kristen, a couple who are having some problems – there is an unexplained tension between them in the opening scenes. However, the tension appears to melt away as the tension is explained. But just as it does they are startled by a loud knock at the door. This is followed by an unnerving conversation with a girl whose face is concealed in the shadows as she asks if her friend is there. The girl is turned away and disappears into the darkness, but soon James and Kristen realise that she hasn’t left at all and they are in fact, being watched by her and two others wearing strange masks. What follows is the frightening realisation that these masked strangers intend to terrify and harm them, and this is all played out in a truly chilling way, sticking the knife in with a final stomach churning scene to finish.
Having been fairly disappointed with recent films that have promised many a scare and delivered none, The Strangers was a pleasant surprise, providing so many scares and uncomfortable moments, there was a feeling of relief when it was all over.
Bertino certainly knows how to create scenes of tension and terror without resorting to throwing blood and guts in your face. The story itself seems a mere vehicle for the scares, but for a debut film, Bertino has shown he has something to offer and hopefully his next film will be an original story with all the suspense of The Strangers.