Deceptively formulaic, The Strangers is a disturbing home invasion horror movie loosely based on real events. The phrase based on real events should be taken literally as they used elements from three different incidents but more about that later. We will be following a couple worried about the future of their relationship after a friend’s wedding. They’ll soon find themselves in mortal danger as several strangers try to break into their remote home for the night. Yes, this is a single-location and unfolding-in-real-time movie sitting somewhere between the horror and thriller genres.
The very familiar and dare I say stereotypical story and all of these other elements should take away from the suspense, mystery, and intensity of this movie. However, exactly the opposite happens and I still cannot explain to you why The Strangers is such a fucked up movie. Perhaps because it focuses on this indiscriminate nature of the very real crimes it manages to generate so much fear. Moreover, the characters react and think very naturally unlike in other, similar movies. This, in turn, makes the movie feel more realistic and plausible. Granted, these reactions are not always the smartest, but we’re not a very smart species either.
You empathize with this young couple and start thinking about what would you do in a similar situation. I felt anxiety, fear, and panic as the situation kept escalating from bad to worse. When a movie has so few elements like this one, all the attention is going to be on the cast, script, and atmosphere. And the cast of The Strangers was phenomenal. Liv and Scott did a great job with their committed, vulnerable, and believable performances. At some points in the movie, I just wanted to rush into the screen and help them. There won’t be much gore as most of the tension stems from the emotional reactions and that suspenseful atmosphere. Even the house was designed to resemble a place most Americans would have grown up in.
Weddings are very emotional events that mark a new phase in any couple’s relationship. And James thought he could use his friend’s one to propose to his girlfriend Kristen. However, she rejected his proposal and the two of the somberly retreated to his remote cabin in the woods for the night. Later that night, they hear a knock on a door and answer it. They answer it not knowing that this is the knock that’s going to change their lives forever.
Ultimately, I think that the scariest part of The Strangers is the concept of the randomness of evil. Our young couple did nothing wrong and yet they found themselves in a lot of trouble. And when you start thinking about the motivations of the intruders things only get more complicated. Understanding this desire to torture, abuse, or even kill is something that an ordinary person struggles with. We build this picture of the world and the people who inhabit it and it’s sometimes so hard to change that picture to match reality.
To admit that some people are willing to do all these evil things just to find out how it feels. However, I do not want to get all philosophical on ya although this is a psychological horror. What I want to get is technical and list the real incidents this movie is based on. Two of them are well-publicized events of the Keddie and Manson murders while the third one happened in the director Bryan Bertino’s neighborhood when he was younger.
Finally, I want to share with you my solution to the situation in the movie The Strangers. If you’re wondering what would I do, I would set the whole house on fire. Douse the whole thing with gasoline but leave an escape route or a safe space. While this might not be the best idea in the world, I feel like it would draw attention to the house and scare away the perpetrators.
Director: Bryan Bertino
Writer: Bryan Bertino
Cast: Liv Tyler, Scott Speedman, Glenn Howerton
Fun Stuff: During the theatrical run of the movie, some theaters received a damaged copy of the movie. The sound was missing from several scenes and all you could hear was static. However, because the movie was so dark and intense, the people in the movie theatre did not notice this.