guest critic: the strangers

I am a bonafide horror movie wuss. I will never, EVER see The Strangers. So imagine my delight when Pistola Whipped agreed to review it for The Center Seat! You mean I get to post the review, but don't actually have to sit through it? Yippee!!! Thank God for friends (at least ones that are a bit more hardass than myself). Enjoy.

I do not question Nayana’s love and respect for movies. She has written about movies and we’ve discussed movies that I wouldn’t dream of seeing. And not because I’m a snob, but because…. well, yeah because I’m a snob. I appreciate that kind of dedication, whether it is to movie watching or classifying moss found only in temperate climate forest beds.

However, her love of movies does not encompass the horror/slasher flick genre. I usually don’t like them either. However, my friends had a different idea. They agreed to see Sex and the City with me, and then sneakily tricked me into seeing The Strangers instead. And since Nayana is definitely not going to see this one, I thought I would take it upon myself (I am so busy not doing my actual day job) to review it here: in the blog-a-go-go.

Let me start off by saying that I think that this movie was inaccurately portrayed as a horror/slasher flick in the previews. It actually played out as more of a psychological/psychopath movie along the lines of Silence of the Lambs or Seven. And that, to me, is a big distinction. I watched the first 20 minutes of this movie through my hands because I was expecting that weird tentacled thing in Carol Anne’s closet in Poltergeist to appear. After all, I’m old enough that I have to get out of bed at least once during the night to pee, but young enough to believe that a monster could still hang out under my bed. I watched it through my hands because movies about ghosts, oversized bugs loitering in the mist, crop circles and angry aliens freak me out. Your average roaming group of masked killers doesn’t. That being said, there were parts of this movie that did scare me.

So let’s start with a little plot familiarization. Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman play lovers who have hit a bit of a snag. They attend a wedding, return late in the evening to Speedman’s parents’ comfy summerhouse, and try to make the most of the night by drinking and listening to Sad Bastard music (see Jeff Tweedy, Richard Buckner and Don Gibson). They are startled by a knock on the door. It’s a strange girl covered in shadows asking where Tamara is (how did the writer know that the name Tamara is the creepiest name ever?) They inform her that Tamara doesn’t live there and instead of going away she stands at the end of the driveway, swings on the swing set, stands listlessly amongst the pine trees in an attempt to scare the viewer. At this point, naturally, Liv runs out of cigarettes and Scott runs out in the deep, dark night to fetch her some.

Enter the other two creepy, shadowy figures and let the madness unfold…

This is when my hands came down from my face and rested obstinately atop of each other. Over the next hour the viewer is exposed to sinister encounters with the three masked marauders who torture Liv and Scott for no other reason than ‘you [they] were home’. Bryan Bertino, writer and director, did a few interesting things to make this a creepfest. He would cut to shots of the house, which looked calm and kinda gave me that warm, fuzzy feeling like when you’d see a shot of the ‘Golden Girls’ house after a commercial break. One would never assume that any horrors other than floral-patterned wicker furniture were taking place within the walls of that solidly built 70’s rambler. And Bertino did kind of play on that whole Manson cult killing spree idea that kind of freaks me out too (side note: the Manson thing took place in the sixties--I don’t understand the sixties, and am therefore afraid of them), but overall there were too many token horror flick tricks and plot holes to make this a sincerely terrifying experience. Truly the scariest scene had to be before the movie even started, when the new Nic Cage ego-driven movie was previewed. Yep, it’s called Bangkok Dangerous. Chills literally just ran down my spine.

Liv and Scott get ups for decent acting and I think Bertino could go on to make a downright scary movie. However, the phony ‘based on real events’ beginning to the ‘it will be easier next time’ end line, as well as the casting of Franchise Queen Liv suggests that Bertino could get stalled out making even un-scarier sequels. So, my advice is to see this one…just skip the previews.
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2 Response to "guest critic: the strangers"

  1. JD says:
    June 11, 2008 at 2:41 PM

    Excellent review. I thought the first half was good. The second half not so much.

  2. Reel Whore says:
    June 12, 2008 at 10:27 AM

    Great guest review. My fave points:

    "a shot of the ‘Golden Girls’ house after a commercial break"
    - You're exactly right, it did seem very sitcom peaceful.

    Scariest scene = Bangkok Dangerous
    "Chills literally just ran down my spine."
    - Haha, too funny. Wished we had gotten that. We got a preview for, no lie, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2!? Don't see the cross-promotional angle on that one.

    @jd: Gotta agree, the film started so good and by the midpoint I realized it was only going downhill.

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