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Movie Review: The Strangers

The Strangers: Slow and Steady Gets the Scare

The Strangers director Bryan Bertino takes a simple storyline based in reality ("inspired," in fact, by true events) and tells it with such careful realism that our own basic human terror, usually lying dormant within us, rises inescapably to the surface. He has figured out a perfectly lethal recipe for horror movie success: take a large dose of realism, add a few scary things and then patiently wait for the fear to rise.

This movie is a great example of a horror/suspense film done well. We human beings already have so many fears just lying inside us, waiting to be tapped into. We don't need two hours of cheap jump scares (looking at you, Prom Night) or gratuitous, nauseating gore. We just have to witness very simple, normal things that could happen to plant a tiny seed of fear in the backs of our minds. Then, all it takes is a patient, detail-oriented filmmaker to nurture that seed until it grows into all-consuming terror.

To see the basic plotline and how it somehow so thoroughly scared the living daylights out of me,


As far as the movie's plot points go, I really mean it when I use terms like "basic" and "simple." A couple, James (Scott Speedman, who makes me miss Felicity so much!) and Kristen (Liv Tyler) drive to a remote cabin to spend the evening where some strangers come by and terrorize them. That's it. Really. However, the simplicity of the story doesn't mean it's boring. A good chunk of the beginning of the film is devoted to the romantic troubles the couple is experiencing (one of them wants to get married, the other does not, they find themselves at a heartbreaking crossroads). Even though I knew that they were setting us up to be spooked and I was trying to brace myself for it, I found myself relaxing into the drama of their story: the heartache, the sweetness, the helplessness. . . and then bam! Girl with scary wispy voice shows up on doorstep and from there a slow unspooling of eerie happenings begins.

And these eerie happenings are so. Very. Simple. Aggressive pounding on the front door. A flash of someone's creepy masked face. A discordant bit of old timey country music skipping on the record player. Shaky close-ups of a broken champagne flute. A shadow looming longer and longer along the wall. In this day and age, these things almost seem like relics of an old-fashioned brand of storytelling, but the thing is, maybe we need to go back to those old times. The tried and true is often the most effective, and The Strangers is a perfect example of this. The ending of the film is sickeningly sad and gross, but as far as suspense goes, everything leading up to the climactic ending is almost flawlessly frightening.

To see video clips from The Strangers, check out


Join The Conversation
musiclvr224 musiclvr224 9 years
I just saw it two days ago and thought it was REALLY good! Most movies do not scare me and this one is no exception (I do not scare easily). It did however make me jump several times. I also found myself a little teary eyed for a particular scene in the movie but I will not tell which one or exactly why because I do not want to spoil the movie. As far as the whole thing being is not....I researched online and that particular murder never occured but some of the main concepts are based off of the Manson murders which involved a man killer and girl killers, the bloody murder from Cabin 28 and in the movie the murders are bloody, and the movie is based off of a french movie IIs (translates to Them) which was based off of the killing of a couple in the Czech Republic. Regaurdless of it not really being true, the movie is still really good and worth seeing.
jennjennnbubba jennjennnbubba 9 years
I totally cannot wait to see this!!
hope2be hope2be 9 years
I like the trailer, and I've been 'spoiled' (so I know the ending the simple plot), but since I like Liv Tyler, I might just rent it when it comes out of DVD. I think if your review is right, this'll be my top 'horror' movie alongside 'High Tension' (if you love thriller: do watch this one). :D
JennaV JennaV 9 years
I want to see this too!! I love that it is the farthest thing from the majority of cheap horror films out these days. I think this week SATC and next week this!
snapsh0t snapsh0t 9 years
I saw it yesterday and loved it. It's simple and bare-bones, but that's what makes it so realistic and THAT much scarier. It feels like it could happen to you. I hate gore and would much rather be straight-up scared, so this movie was really my kind of horror movie - and I usually hate horror movies. :P
jessy777 jessy777 9 years
I liked the film but I just found it so slow. It felt a little flat through the middle of the movie and I was expecting more based on the trailer. I didn't find myself scared once during the film. There were some bumps and bangs that caused a stir but nothing that was actual fear. I think I just wished for something more because I loved the trailer, premise and Liv Tyler. I would say that it is worth seeing because I feel something about the film but I am not sure what that is. Maybe after I sleep on it my opinion could change because that has happened to me before.
robynfromdahood robynfromdahood 9 years
This movie is definatly worth seeing it scared the bejeezus out of me. and it's inspired by the directors childhood where he said that a man came to his house asking for someone and then he later found out that empty houses in the surrounding area had been robbed, it is also inspired by the manson murders.
princess_dork princess_dork 9 years
I love me some horror, I wanna see this. Anyone know the true story behind it?
Gabriela14815884 Gabriela14815884 9 years
I so want to see this!
linds1019 linds1019 9 years
This movie looks really scary!
lizlee89 lizlee89 9 years
wow BuzzSugar, I'm really impressed by your knowledge and insight on what makes a good horror movie - you MUST be a Hitchcock the way, I really want to see this movie, and now I'm even more intrigued...
robynfromdahood robynfromdahood 9 years
Im going to see this tonight :] Im definatly hoping to come back scared out of my mind, its good to see a horror movie thats not focused on gore or teenagers.
DMBloyola6 DMBloyola6 9 years
fleurfairy -- I scare REALLY easily in scary movies, too -- I'm already super jumpy by nature! I always take a hoodie with me, so I can pull it over my head when I get too freaked out!
fleurfairy fleurfairy 9 years
I really wish I could watch this because I love Scott Speedman and Liv Tyler but I know I wouldn't be able to sleep for 3 weeks after. There are only certain scary movies that I can actually see and not be traumatized by.
angelinemarie angelinemarie 9 years
i wanna see this so bad! :oops:
zombielove zombielove 9 years
so stoked for this!
DMBloyola6 DMBloyola6 9 years
I am so amped to see this!
Francoisehardly Francoisehardly 9 years
I checked the website yesterday after I found out Gemma Ward was in it and had to turn off the sound; At one point I heard a creepy noise and couldn't tell whether it came from the computer or around me.
Kurious1 Kurious1 9 years
Makes me want to see this movie. I don't like blood and gore, but I do like a good psychological thriller. Hope it's as good as he makes it out to be.
emalove emalove 9 years
I seriously get CHILLS when I watch this trailer...I think it would scare the absolute crap out of me. I am pretty sure I can't watch it.
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