After what seemed like an eternity for this movie to get to the theatres it was difficult to hide the feeling that I would be disappointed it. That is so unfortunately so often the case. However, I tried to keep my mind open and let the actions on the screen do their best, despite having a promotional campaign that seemed intent on spoiling the movie for everyone, unless of course you like that sort of thing.
Things didn't start off too well though, nothing to do with the movie though, as three idiots decided to join the movie after about 10 minutes, then proceed to talk, move about and generally piss me off. Bear in mind this was a midday showing and, aside from the three evil monkeys, there were only five other respectful patrons watching the movie. Maybe one day I will learn that whatever time I choose to go to the theatre there will always be the odd fucknut there that doesn't care about other people wanting to watch the movie.
Anyway, before I go off on a tangent, i'll get back to The Strangers. Starting off with an "Inspired by true events" voiceover, which if you think about it could perfectly make sense in context to the plot, although I think it was just another line of bullshit from the marketing folks. Yes, people do get attacked in their homes, so lets generalize for a second shall we.... Right, after this we join Kristen (Liv Tyler) and James (Scott Speedman) as they are returning from a wedding to James' family's summer home, which is in the ass-end of nowhere. Right off you know that something is amiss between the couple, a device used in the similarish Vacancy, but as of yet we don't quite know what it is.
They arrive at their destination and, after an awkward few minutes or so and a surprise vistor later, Kristen realizes she is out of smokes. So, of course, James pops out to get her some, even though it is four in the morning. Mind you, time has no relevance when you need a smoke, of that I can attest to.
Whilst out the fun and games start for Kristen, as there is a knocking at the door, or should I say banging, as that would be more appropriate. The night will only get more sinister from here on in for Kristen and James, once he eventually gets back.
The first thing I will say about The Strangers is that if you didn't like the Ils (Them), which is another home invasion movie, or found it too slow, chances are you won't like this as it moves along at a fairly slow pace throughout. Obviously it picks up towards the latter stages, but this is more a movie that is reliant on the slowburn, building the tension and slowly letting it unravel. I thought it worked quite well though, the sense of dread, accompanied by some great jump scenes and genuine chills all came together to give a great atmosphere. Nothing is rushed here, there's no fast editing, no real flashy effects just a drawn out uncomfortable hour and a half.
Now, whilst the home invasion premise is nothing new, and much about this movie isn't particularly original, there are two solid central performance from Tyler and Speedman that kept my attention. Tyler in particular did a great job conveying her sense of fear and panic at the situation. Speedman was a little less impressive, but a solid enough performance nonetheless. The real stars though are the strangers themselves; they are just creepy sonsabitches. Obviously this is helped immensley by the situations the writer and director puts these characters in; a shot of one of them in the background (the picture in the poster works much better on film), an over the shoulder shot that will have you holding your breath, these are creepy villians.
Unfortunately the flaws with this movie try their hardest to outweigh and nulify the good points. A combination of a poor marketing which reveals too much, a spoiling opening scene and a seen-it-before storyline really had this movie testing my patience to a certain degree. This should have been the sort of movie in which I was wondering what the hell is going on and why? Alas it won't take a genius to know all the answers before they are revealed to us.
Fuck, this was a very promising flick, and I did enjoy many aspects of it, but I really think the filmmakers hurt themselves here. I will give this a recommendation, with a certain element of caution though, as the atmosphere was tense, the strangers were cool and Liv Tyler is hot. This is one movie that will divide audiences, of that I am quite sure.
Rating 2.5 (out of 4)
Review by Jude Felton