31 Days of Halloween 14 – Liv Tyler meets The Strangers
The Strangers (2008) is the directorial debut for Bryan Bertino and he can’t muster much more than some jump scares, a loud soundtrack, and a Volvo from the 1970s. This movie has nothing original. Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman are invaded by some weirdos and tormented. That’s it. That’s all that happens. However, it delivers suspense and has pretty good performances. It’s just that there are better home invasion movies than this one, like When a Stranger Calls (1979) and Wait Until Dark (1967). Why did I see this movie? I wanted to see if the movie’s reputation held up.
Back in 2008, the trailers for this movie were amazing. Showcasing the conflict, the trailers focused on the stalkings and the invasion itself. What was going to happen to our innocent heroes? You’d have to see the movie to find out. The hype also included mention of the movie being “based on a true story”, which is not the case. It is not based on a true story. It is not based on any version of the Mansion murders I’m aware of and I can’t find any other media story ressembling the plot of this movie.
In a recent interview, Bertino exlains that he was inspired by an incident where strangers knocked on his door as a kid, but left once they discovered he was home. He later learned they ransacked the home of people who weren’t around to answer the door. This is not the “true story” I was expecting. So basically, the movie starts off on the wrong foot by lying to me. However, the marketing behind this film is pure gold and was done just right. It may have set the bar too high.
Bertino better send Liv Tyler a fruit basket or something, because she holds this flimsy movie together by sheer force of will. The camera loves catching her reactions. She knows how to scream like she’s in a Nightmare on Elm Street film, so she fits right in to this movie, where you really need to react. She seems genuinely into her role, though it doesn’t go anywhere.
Besides the screaming, there are things that make you jump. Typical loud sounds and things that come around the corner surprise you. They make the actors jump just as much. I don’t like cheap scare tactics like that. I prefer mood, dread and horror, though Bertino does succeed in presenting an unsettling atmosphere, I’ll give him that. I was just waiting for The Strangers to waltz into the house and kick off the party, but it never happens. I mean, they do waltz in, but there’s no party. They should have consulted Rob Zombie for that part.
The Strangers themselves never speak but one line in the whole movie. We rarely ever see them on screen. Their absence is replaced by scittering noises, grass rustling, and glass breaking. It’s like the opposite of what happens in House of 1000 Corpses. In that movie, we get so much time with the killers that it is overdone. Here, the camera cuts away when they unmask because they’re just nameless invaders. We’re not meant to know them, only what they can do.
All in all, this movie excels at being straightforward and by-the-numbers. There’s nothing extra in this one, and it’s kept short. The suspense is good and the performances are better, but the jump scares and the flimsy plot make it nothing more than ordinary.
31 Days of Halloween Movie Marathon
1 – Frankenstein and the Monster from HELL (1974)
2 – Dracula has risen from the grave (1968)
3 – The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (1964)
4 – Evil Dead II (1987)
5 – Dawn of the Dead (1978)
6 – Les Diaboliques (1955)
7 – The Howling (1981)
8 – Friday the 13th (1980)
9 – Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
10 – Hellraiser (1987)
11 – Let the Right One in (2008)
12 – Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1984)
13 – House of 1000 Corpses (2003)
14 – The Strangers (2008)
15 – The House of the Devil (2009)
16 – Psycho (1960)
17 – The Orphanage (2007)
18 – The Amityville Horror (1979)
19 – The Raven (1963)
20 – Blue Velvet (1986)
21 – Repulsion (1965)
22 – Dementia 13 (1963)
23 – The Vanishing (2008)
24 – Halloween (1978)
25 – Shaun of the Dead (2004)
26 – The Silence of the Lambs (1988)
27 – An American Werewolf in London (1981)
28 – Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
29 – The Exorcist (1973)
30 – The Ring (2002)
31 – Night of the Living Dead (1968)