Length: 80 minutes
Director: Bryan Bertino
Writer: Bryan Bertino
Starring: Liv Tyler, Gemma Ward, Scott Speedman, Laura Margolis, Kip Weeks, Glenn Howerton
It’s the fear that it could happen just because that makes “The Strangers” work. Indeed one of the villains (Heath Ledger’s ex Gemma Ward) tells her victims (Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman) that everything is happening simply because they “were home”. The movie is a decidedly assured debut from writer/director Bryan Bertino, who uses the ol’ nudge wink wink trick of claiming the movie is based on true events, when in fact it is loosely based on a handful of separate occasions- none of which really resemble what happens here. In fact, the main inspiration for the film was an incident in Bertino’s childhood where he had a run in with a neighborhood thief. Still, it must have left one hell of an impression on him and the other events that “inspired” the film include a random house invasion that resulted in four deaths. The deadly roll of the dice when dealing with twisted and dangerous minds is more frightening than any Freddy Krueger or “Saw” could ever be. Bertino has also done his homework when it comes to making a solid horror film. The movie is set primarily in one setting- an isolated house in the woods- and has only a handful of characters- most of which barely speak- and yet he works the audience into being on the edge of their seat by simply using the most effective methods of scaring them- the element of surprise and the slow build up of tension. The invaders, dressed up in creepy masks (including an “Orphanage” looking burlap sack) toy with their victims and in turn toys with us. It’s like “Funny Games”- which the movie is all ready getting a lot of unfair comparisons too (they are both great films on their own rights, but “Games” is on a different level and has a different purpose)- in that manner, except it’s allowed to be more realistic and thus more frightening. “The Strangers” for some reason seems to be getting the wrath of most critics. These are the same critics that complain every time the studios drop a lame “Prom Night” or another “Grudge” on us and yet here is a finely crafted horror film that does exactly what it should do- it keeps you in suspense, it scares you, and it leaves you afraid to turn the light off when you get home. Only this time instead of telling yourself “it’s only a movie”, you have to think that maybe one day you might just happen to “be home”.