Rating: 1.5 stars
I can almost appreciate what the folks behind The Strangers were trying to do: Create a bare bones horror film using nothing more than an unhappy couple (Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman), a big house in the proverbial “middle of nowhere,” and a group of creepy people wearing masks and sacks over their heads. It’s the film equivalent of a MacGyver trick.
But in order for this premise to fly a few things need to work out.
For one, the film should not resort to the most hackneyed of horror tropes: the sudden hand on the shoulder, the heroine crouching alone in a closet, the inexplicable banging noise, the haunting, scratchy record. (Record players? Really? Had no one lived in this house since 1982?).
Also, if you’re going to go minimalist, at least give us characters we care about, not a couple of beautiful people moping around almost wordlessly. (Does the film actually think it’s an art film? If so, fail.)
Finally, and perhaps most egregiously, the film will need some internal logic. If these terrifying interlopers are supposed to be real (and they are), don’t have them appear and then disappear like spirits, and don’t have them move around with spectral silence.
Sure, The Strangers is scary in that, “I goosed ya!” kind of way, but it doesn’t have a single truly imaginative moment. I just saw a (hilarious) trailer for a film called Baghead that seems to be a parody of the isolated house/guy-with-bag-on-his-head subgenre. The problem with The Strangers is that it doesn’t realize it’s the butt of the joke.