Friday, June 6, 2008

movie review: The Strangers

I've been planning to do movie reviews here on the new blog (it's mostly gonna be horror flicks so, if that's not your thing, sorry Charlie!) and so away we go, here is my first...

Last night I went to the movies with my lovely friend (who will henceforth be known in this blog as 'Dollface', because of her exquisite hand painted dolls, and also, because she herself is a living doll... *grin*)

So, we saw The Strangers. And here's my review.

The plot is simple but chilling. Kristen (Liv Tyler) and James (Scott Speedman) are spending the night at a remote house belonging to James' parents after attending a wedding. Trouble is brewing between the young couple; there are tears and tension flowing, and we do find out what their issue is, but it won't matter because soon, they will be in for a helluva lot worse. A 4 am knock at the door breaks the silence, and the terror slowly but surely begins as 3 menacing, masked strangers begin a home invasion of epic and twisted proportions.

The Strangers is a loosely based 'remake' of the critically acclaimed 2006 French horror flick, Ils (Them) I haven't seen Ils yet, dammit, and I really wanted to see it first since that movie has gotten such raving reviews, but oh well. I still thought The Strangers (based on the same 'true events' as Ils) was worth a shot. Plus the trailers were promisingly creepy too.

And this movie is creepy- isolated location, menacing villains, lots of quiet, fear-laden tension. I can't say I didn't like it. I just didn't love it either.

The cinematography was great, keeping things taut by using lots of deep shadows, saturated colors and slow, spooky panning shots of the woods, the inside of the house, and other dark places where someone bad could be lurking. And it wasn't filled with obvious, gratuitous 'jump scares' either (except for one very corny one right at the end, ugh)- the sightings of the strangers come in very subtle, hair-raising ways that were reminiscent of one of my fave horror flicks- good ol' Halloween, where Michael Myer's mask would briefly hover, ghostlike, in the background of a shot before disappearing into shadows. And speaking of masks, the ones in this flick are very effective... projecting both a scary emotional blankness and also an undercurrent of savage childishness.

The strangers in question were my favorite part of the movie, exuding such an air of cruel detachment and a slow, steady determination to spill blood, all the while playing with their prey like cats with two terrorized mice. You really get the feeling that they are enjoying their deadly little game to the fullest. Dollface (not to be confused with my Dollface, purely coincidental heh), played by Gemma Ward, was the scariest of the crew in my opinion. Her clear, girlish voice was disturbingly ice-cold, and her patient calmness as she systematically tears Kristen and Scott's world apart is chilling. The Man In The Mask (Kip Weeks) is also scary as Hell with his stoop-shouldered gait, his raspy breathing, and his dead eyes peeking out from his sack-like mask (which was very reminiscent of the pre-hockey-mask Jason and also, the killer from The Town That Dreaded Sundown- that mask was a very creepy touch!) Pin Up Girl (Laura Margolis) lacked the presence of her masked partners... while she looked freaky enough, she didn't have much to do for most of the time other than stroll around, butcher knife in hand. I would have liked to have seen her get to do a little more of the seriously scary shit.

Now, for the stuff I didn't like. The main thing that annoyed me was that they totally blew their wad, revealing the fate of our couple within the first 5 seconds of the movie, in a voiceover telling us that ::POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT:: the following is based on 'true events', and that law enforcement still don't know what happened to the couple that night. Since that gives us a pretty good idea of exactly what is going to happen, all we have left to do is sit and watch the how for the next 80 minutes. When we already know that Kristen and James are not going to survive this night intact, it makes it hard to invest any hope or real concern for them, which lessens the feeling of dread on their behalf. It does steal a great deal of suspense from the proceedings ::END SPOILER ALERT:: Also, there sure are a lot of dumb-horror-movie-esque decisions on the parts of Kristen and James in this movie; while it does come with the territory- if all horror movie protagonists did everything in a logical, smart way many of the movies would be about 10 minutes long- some of these moments still made me roll my eyes like, c'mon, guys, what are you thinking?? For instance- Kristen runs around completely barefoot for the entire f**king movie, even though she changes into a practical outfit of jeans and a flannel, she neglects to add shoes? Even after the place is pretty much carpeted in broken glass and splintered wood, and she also runs around outside in the woods, and yet she can't say, throw on a pair of flip flops at least, or something?? Minor little things like that annoy me in horror flicks.

And one additional gripe: when in the movie did THIS scene happen...?

Um, this was not in the movie! I realize that sometimes stills from scenes that are later cut sometimes make their way into the stream of public display... but but but.... this was featured on one of the official movie posters for Pete's sake. And trust me, folks- this scene was not in the movie.

Anyway. Overall I actually really liked this movie. Being that home invasions and random thrill kill murders are now a sadly common reality in our world, this movie does provoke an uneasy sense of fear and paranoia on a very real level. And the strangers are seriously creepy figures.

If you are looking for a similar movie with a much more gut-twisting, leave-you-disturbed-for-days vibe, I recommend Michael Haneke's 1997 film Funny Games (this is the Austrian original, I haven't yet seen the US remake yet) Now that movie is sick, man.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I heard tell that this movie leaves you pissed off at the end, unsatisfied. Since my life is spent wrangling the wee people who stretched my teats, I don't get a lot of chances to go to the thanks for letting me weed out one that doesn't pack the total punch my eight bucks deserves. I'll be spending that on Kung Fu Panda, thankyouverymuch. P.S,'s, yo. :)
Still anonymous, and retarded...~Randi