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The Strangers (2008)

the strangers

After returning from a wedding reception, a young couple staying in an isolated vacation house receive a knock on the door in the middle of the night. What ensues is a violent invasion by three strangers, their faces hidden behind masks. The couple find themselves in a violent struggle, in which they go beyond what either of them thought capable in order to survive.

The Strangers is a 2008 horror film written and directed by Bryan Bertino, and starring Liv Tyler, Scott Speedman, Glenn Howerton, Gemma Ward, Laura Margolis, and Kip Weeks. It was ambiguously marketed as being “inspired by true events”, although writer and director Bryan Bertino has stated that the film was inspired by a series of break-ins that occurred in his neighborhood as a child, as well as some incidents that occurred during the Manson killings.

the strangers

The film revolves around a young couple, James (Scott Speedman) and Kristen (Liv Tyler) who are terrorized by three masked assailants, who break into the remote summer home in which they are staying. The couple return to the house after a night out in which James  had just proposed but Kristen said no. After an emotional beginning and lots of crying, the couple are rudely interrupted from ‘making up’ by a knock at the door.

the strangers

This is when the creepy times begin. Faces at windows, power cuts, bad guys knowing every movement and hiding place the good guys use. It just seemed to be using every cliché ever used before, and really offered nothing original. There were so many stupid mistakes on the behalf of the lead characters. I mean, James left his girlfriend alone after the first knock on the door and confrontation with a strange girl. Later on he had an ‘accident’ with a gun he had. Kristen lost the knife she was carrying. In a shed full of weapons and instruments she leaves them all. I literally could go on, just so many poor  errors in judgement.

There were some positives though. The tension was built up nicely throughout, with lots of silences, creepy voices, jump scares, and a nice use of songs, sometimes very loud which worked well. Liv Tyler looked beautiful as always and she was far and away the best part of the movie. Giving off a quiet but effective performance she did the best with what she had to work with.

the strangers

The film was shot entirely with hand-held cameras or steady cams. Every shot has some camera movement and I know a lot of people don’t like this style of shooting. It doesn’t really bother me, it was more the overall story which was disappointing. The Strangers has been summarised as a poor version of the French film ‘Them’ and I’ll be reviewing that film soon and will able to offer my thoughts on the comparison. There wasn’t a great deal of violence on show despite the films tagline and plot. Only a couple of scenes towards the end show any blood, whilst other things happen off camera and we get to see the remains.

the strangers

In conclusion I was disappointed with The Strangers. I felt it had potential to be a lot better than it was. There were some good creepy scenes and effective scares, but they were few and far between and ultimately outweighed by poor decision making and a weak story. A nice redeeming point was the ending which at least went for something different rather than be a typical cop-out Hollywood style ending. Strangers 2 is due to film later this year so I will look forward to seeing if a sequel can up its game and improve on what should be a frightening premise. It’s just a raw fear having people terrorize you in your own home, and done right can be a great movie (see Inside for an example). It is not done right in The Strangers sadly.

the strangers

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58 Comments

  1. My boyfriend made me watch this claiming it to be the best horror he has seen in ages. I get what creeped him out. This is probably how it would go down in real life, you can’t comprehend that it is really happening, that it isn’t just a prank. I guess everyday people would have those errors in judgement.
    Nevertheless I hated this movie, it was a failed attempt at a good terrorizing horror, the only good part was the last 10 mins, where the story played out nicely.

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    • Yeah I hear what your saying about errors in judgement, I guess unless you have been in that position you don’t know how you would react. I like to think I wouldn’t leave my wife alone or use the shotgun quite as quickly though……Thanks for your comment, nice to see someone else didn’t like the film 🙂

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  2. I liked this the first time I had seen it. Then I purchased a dvd some months later. But when I watched it a second time I liked it less, I guess because it had no depth. It was like a bunch of creepy scenes, sort of like a music video set to creepy music.

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    • To be honest this was my second time watching it. I remember liking it a lot more first time round, but it felt so long ago I had to watch it again to give an honest review. Wasn’t a fan on a second proper viewing. I like your music video comparison, totally agree 🙂

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  3. Interesting review, the record skipping creeped me out as well as the moments of unbearable silence.

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    • Thanks Vinnieh. Yeah some parts of the film worked well, the silences then the loud music made it unsettling to watch. There were just some poor moments which let it down in my opinion.

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  4. I was always torn about watching this one and so just never did. I really do like Liv Tyler though.

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    • It’s ok. I mean, if there is nothing else on then give it a watch. But hey, thats just my humble opinion. The trailer makes it look a lot more exciting than it is 🙂 But thats why I embed trailers to try and tempt people so maybe you will love it!

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      • Yep, that’s why I put in trailers too! 🙂 Sometimes I want to see if someone will take up the challenge of watching one of the more awful movies I write about. 😉

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        • Yeah, I have this one visitor who is seeking out Sharks in Venice because of a conversation we had. Now that is an awful movie, I don’t envy her sitting through that. 🙂

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        • Maybe that visitor really, really likes awful movies. Maybe she likes to create her own dialogue and mock her way through such flicks. 😉

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        • Please post me some dialogue, sounds amazing!! 🙂

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        • “Perhaps if I raise my voice, it will look like I’m acting…Look at me emote!!!” “I’m a vampire, of course I’m a lesbian.” “Why is the German mad scientist actually Hispanic??” “Wait, so Hitler is now undead? Is he a zombie or a vampire? This guys is terrible. Why am I even attempting to validate a plot here?” 😉

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        • Haha amazing!!!! Is it wrong that I’m trying to work out which films your talking about? You should make this a feature on your site, and we all have to guess what film it is. Brilliant 🙂

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        • Omg, that is a BRILLIANT idea!!! I love it!!! I really want to try live tweeting about a movie (which would be basically the above) so maybe I’ll do that then collect the comments I make for a blog post for the next day. GENIUS, thank you!!! (Also, it’s “BloodRayne: Third Reich” 😉 Terrible terrible movie, lol).

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        • Your welcome – 50% of the profits yeah?? 🙂 Uwe Boll movie, should of guessed. You know, I have actually seen more Boll movies than anyone should, but there was one, Rampage, which was pretty good (although that may look like Im saying this in poor taste after the events in your country recently with the Batman shootings….) Rampage is eerily similar but that aside a good film. Stoic was a hard watch but again a decent attempt for Boll.

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        • Absolutely 50%. 😉 Ahhh, that’s who it was. I didn’t pay much attention when it queued up, lol. Rampage sounds interesting, I’ll check it out. And I’ll at least look up Stoic. 😉

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        • Rampage has a simple premise, but Boll makes awful crap normally and that was oscar worthy by his normal standards. Stoic is a hard watch, some guys in prison, bullying another, pretty sick stuff going on, not pleasant at all. 😦

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        • Oh. Well. Maybe I won’t watch them then…

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        • 🙂 See, I kind of talked you into watching them then out of it. Nice. I wouldn’t normally recommend an Uwe Boll film to anyone, but since you watched Bloodrayne the 2 I mentioned were the ones I was most impressed with.

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  5. The first thing I was going to ask you was if you’d seen Ils (Them). You’ll enjoy that one a LOT more. The dumbest part for me in The Strangers was when they were up against a corner in a room with only one entrance/exit, with a loaded shotgun pointed at it, and yet they somehow totally botch it. Bulllllllshit. That, and the weapons shed.

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    • IIs is ready to go the next time I have a free couple of hours. Cant wait to watch it and have heard nothing but good things.

      I know the scene well, just don’t be so fucking trigger happy dude!!!

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  6. Saw this in theaters and immediately left with a bad taste in my mouth but after thinking about it some more, it grew on me. Not a great film, but what it delivers it does so solidly.

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    • Hmm, I wasn’t convinced, I just felt it lacked something. I’m all for a simple but effective premise which this has, but too many flaws ruined it for me.

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  7. I completely agree about weak story (e.g. poor decision-making skills on the part of characters). However, I found the film to be ‘scary’ . But not in the way other ‘scary’ movies are ‘scary’ – in terms of creeping you out, but in terms of causing psychological distress, especially towards the end, when they mercilessly ‘finish off’ the couple. This reminded me very much of ‘Funny Games U.S.’ and even ‘The Last House on the Left’. Seeing it in that ‘disturbing’ light, I think the film did deliver.

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    • Thanks for the comment. I agree on your comparisons to Funny Games with regards to the endings. However I feel Funny Games is a much superior film in terms of psychological distress caused. I do believe The Strangers could of been great and there is potential there as I like he ambiguity of the masked characters. I hope to learn more about them and maybe even enjoy The Strangers 2 more than I did this. Appreciate your thoughts, thanks again 🙂

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  8. From what I hear this film is a remake of the French film ‘Them’ or ‘Ils’. The Strangers does have its moments; but in the long run it’s just another example of Hollywood copping out.

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    • I definitely think The Strangers tries to copy ‘Them’ but it’s not on the same level. Having finally watched ‘Them’ last night, its just far superior. I feel I was maybe a little harsh on The Strangers as there are some good moments as you say Jmount, but the negatives outweigh the positives for me.

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      • I’ve got Them on my to watch list and will probably watch and review it after work tonight.

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        • I look forward to reading your thoughts. My review of Them will be up in a couple of days, struggling with it so may watch it again to try and give a better judgement. Tricky little film I’m finding

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  9. Tom Levier

     /  August 14, 2012

    I was wondering if and when they were going to do a sequel. Nice review.

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    • Thanks Tom. Apparently a finished script for the sequel was floating round the IMDB forums. I just read about the beginning and then left, no point spoiling it if it was legit.

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  10. Hi thank you for the like! I read your review of the strangers and watched the trailer. As much I know you’re right about it, for some reason I just wanna watch it.

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    • Your welcome!

      I can pretty much guarantee you will have seen worse films, it really is an average film, I just felt it could of been so much more. If you do get to see it, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it! Thanks for the comment 🙂

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  11. James England

     /  September 11, 2012

    I like your style, man. I’ve read way too many movie reviews where the critic goes after some superfluous nonsense as a pretense to give it a lower (or higher) rating, while pretty much felating his or her favorite big name directors and actors while lambasting retardedly similar films within the genre. Or similarly felating some little known director or actor hoping to get a bump back. This looks like a genuine, complete review of a film. I can see your voice in your words and your obvious predilections to the certain things you liked (very few, in the case of the Strangers and wholly substantiated in my opinion) and a very sharp, critical edge to the factors you found to be lacking. I will definitely be keeping up with this blog. It’s much to my liking.

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    • Every now and again someone posts something on here that I love and makes me laugh but is serious at the same time……and this post has now become my new favourite. More because of what you said and the way you said it, I appreciate the kind words James, thanks very much!!

      Its odd, because The Strangers is far and away my most viewed post, and yet I was pretty harsh on it. But no use sugar coating things, and after all we cant be wrong, an opinion is just that. Glad you have found my site and I look forward to seeing you around here, hopefully I can write some stuff to keep you coming back! Thanks again 🙂

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  12. I may just have to revisit this one. The tormentors sort of fascinated me, but there were some flaws here that really peeved me off. The music was mighty effective and unique, though. Nice review, Tyson.

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  13. Dan

     /  January 18, 2013

    I’m half way through this movie but I had to go buy Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried” because of this film.

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  14. Another great post (sorry I’m just entertaining myself going through your a-z review list haha)
    It creeped me out when I saw it in the cinema, and that scene where she’s stood at the sink and old sack-head appears in the doorway opposite and just stands there creepily while she doesn’t notice haunted me for days! Watching it back, it isn’t great…definitely agree about errors of judgement, it’s one of those frustrating films where the characters are unrealistically stupid.

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    • Glad you’re utilising the a-z!!! Still don’t know whether to call it that or site index. Anyway, thanks for using it!! Already serving its purpose and showing off old reviews 🙂

      As for the film, it just frustrated me really. I love Liv Tyler but even she couldn’t save this for me. It just frustrated me with stupid decisions and ridiculous developments.

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      • In hindsight it is a pretty terrible film…the ending drives me mad, it might have been the alternate ending…the one where she’s ‘dead’ and then she screams in a kids face (?)

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        • I thought that was the normal ending? Either way supposedly she’s back for the sequel which is still in the pipeline. Would be nice to know more about the killers if there is a next time.

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        • Might have been :S I coulda sworn the was an alternate ending too…or maybe the alternate one was less stupid! Oh god, a sequel…
          There’s a new film coming out called You’re Next, which has been pegged as being the best recent horror film, but it looks quite a lot like The Strangers

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        • Maybe, Im confused, but dont want to watch it again to find out lol!!

          Looking forward to You’re Next, have been waiting a while but it has got great word of mouth. Fingers crossed its worth the wait!! 🙂

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        • haha I don’t want to watch it again either! Best kept a mystery

          Same, it looks great and I’ve heard very good things too…not sure when it comes out, but hopefully it’ll hit cinemas soon

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        • Wasn’t it supposed to be last year, then they delayed it 12 months so it’s due later this year? I hope so anyway, really sounds great.

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  1. Funny Games (1997) / Funny Games U.S. (2007) | Head In A Vice
  2. Ils – Them (2006) | Head In A Vice
  3. Movie Reviews: Area 51; It Follows; The Jokesters; Mockingbird | Head In A Vice

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