To preface this review, and I feel I must, I typically don’t like big time actors in horror films. In 99% of the cases it immediately gives away who is the safe bet to live through the film. You really think Keifer Sutherland or John Cusak sign on to a movie knowing they are going to get killed off? Horror should be about the unexpected, in effective horror films, the viewer should not feel comfortable at any point. But that is exactly what big actors provide – comfort. You with me?
Liv Tyler (big time actress) and her husband are kicking it in their isolated vacation home. Three masked scary people decide to terrorize them. Though the plot is far from unique or original; director/writer Brian Bertino does something contemporary horror rarely gets right – he uses patience to build suspense and dread.
In a throwback to the classic thrillers, Bertino uses steady wide shots and holds them for agonizingly long periods of time. I believe the reason so many people love this movie and spew reviews like, “OMG! Liv was hawt! I was so scurred!” was due to the skillful and careful route shown by the director and the lack of respect for the English language. Early in the film, there were moments where the suspense was literally ratcheted up to the boiling point. In that sense the movie delivers.
Once the action gets going, unfortunately the film falls into a ton of predictable traps. In a movie aiming for realism, the scary folks seemed to be awfully good at appearing and disappearing at the most opportune moments (ie…using the easy way to scare people). And then there is a scene where a friend comes over and seemingly makes every possible mistake that can be made in order to get himself killed. The protagonists themselves manage to do some pretty dumb things too, like not be able to fight off people while in possession of a shotgun and a large knife.
All-in-all Brian Bertino appears to have it in him to make excellent modern horror films. I am excited to see how next couple films fair, particularly This Man which he is writing and directing for Ghost House Pictures (Sam Raimi).
The Strangers is a well above average horror film with a nod to the ancient thrillers of yesteryear.
Snore Factor: ZZZ