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The Strangers (2008)

We tell ourselves there's nothing to fear - but sometimes, we're wrong

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 85 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15

I’m a sucker for a good horror movie. If there’s a zombie, killer, monster, or ghosty-type causing problems and scarin’ the townsfolk, count me in. As a fan of the genre, I’ve seen a lot of creepy stuff, and as of late, most of the creepiest has been coming from Korea or Japan. So I had hopes for The Strangers, because it’s about time we had a good old American scare. Like I said, I’ve seen a lot, and as such, I’m not easily frightened. The Strangers actually scared me, and even better, it scared me all the way to the end.

James Hoyt (Scott Speedman) and Kristen McKay (Liv Tyler) are a pretty average-seeming couple in what appears to be the last throes of a doomed romance. Their bittersweet last hurrah at their isolated summer home—hours after Kristen has turned down James’ marriage proposal—is cut short when a group of masked strangers begins to first harass—and then terrorize—the couple through the night. Faced with no way out and virtually no hope, James and Kristen struggle to survive the tortures of their unknown assailants.

The Strangers begins with a few words about how the story is inspired by true events. This is not to say it really happened—writer/director Bryan Bertino claims to have been inspired both by the Manson family killings and by an event in his own childhood in which a strange woman knocked on his door asking for directions and later burglarized several neighborhood houses. The story doesn’t have to be true to be scary, though, and it is just the idea of its possible truth, of the mundane and simple events surrounding such terrifying realities, that causes the scares. Bertino doesn’t go for a large amount of gore—or even, really, an abundance of violence—to accomplish his desired effect. By using sound and atmosphere and tension, he achieves a level of fear that most directors can only get to with special effects and a bucket of blood. He takes his couple’s utter helplessness and builds it in such a way that, when paired with the attackers’ slow, deliberate, “don’t worry, we’ve got all night” attitude, crafts a suspenseful and satisfyingly solid thriller that does what the best of its kind do—plays on our deepest fears and leaves us feeling unsettled long after the film ends.

It's Got: Plenty of “Eek!” moments, a scary premise, and masks

It Needs: Nothing really - I like it just the way it is


Finally, a makes you jump horror flick that didn’t originate in a much scarier version from Asia, The Stranger throws two likable people into a horrifying situation—plus there are masks.