Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Strangers

Strangers Title2

  • Released Internationally on 29/05/08
  • Released in Malta by KRS on 08/10/08

In a nutshell

Young couple. Summer house in the middle of nowhere. Planned romantic night. Yeah right.

Oh! The horror!

Different people have different tastes. Anyone knows that. People who make things know it, and people who appreciate things know it. It’s what makes the world a varied place. It’s why we have menus, showrooms and remote controls. It’s why people with hairy cheeks often get married, and why you can still find white socks for sale. And of course, it’s why Hollywood churns out films by the dozen and why the world is sprinkled with cinema multiplexes.

Which brings me (finally) to horror films. Some are termed ‘thrillers’, some are gory, some contain creepy creatures while others use scary psychopaths; but ultimately they all aspire to keep you on the edge of your seat for as long as possible, and maybe even throw you off it a couple of times too. Which can all be quite fun, especially if you’re wolfing down microwave popcorn with friends, or sharing an armrest with a terrified but cute girl you asked out. But most importantly, there has to be a decent payoff in the end. You need something to make your ordeal worthwhile.

There is no such payoff here. Nothing. Just ninety minutes of terror, frights, unease and gore, just for the sake of it. Sure, the film has its moments – if you’re a thrill seeker who likes to be jolted then this might be just the ticket for you, but ultimately I was left wondering whether the rise in blood pressure was worth it. At the end of a rollercoaster ride you get the satisfaction, the view, the memories, and maybe the photo, but here the audience is left with nothing.

Inspirational stuff?

The film starts with the much-abused line ‘inspired by true events’. Where the inspiration ends and the extrapolation begins is hard to define, especially due to the nature of the ‘events’ in question – a planned romantic night for a young couple in a summer house, which loses some of its mood when uninvited guests come knocking.

Survival of the smartest

Assuming, however, that what we are seeing truly happened, then it appears that real-life young couples have learnt all the clichés from recent horror films, and are often as dim as the fictional victims. Which would explain why they insist on walking into rooms without switching on the lights, or getting separated at every opportunity, or walking right into obviously dangerous situations all alone. Which is naturally very convenient for a director intent of scaring us out of our wits.

Who’s in it?

Liv Tyler adds some respectability, and is quite convincingly terrified throughout, whereas Scott Speedman first gains our deepest sympathy after his romantic plans goes awry, but then opts for recklessness instead of chivalry.

Worth screaming about?

Don’t get me wrong – if you’re one of the (apparently numerous) fans of these fright-fests, then this could make you feel great. Many of the tense scenes are well constructed, and the terror is palpable and believable. But if you’re after a good film overall, and have enough palpitations as it is, I’d give this one a miss.



http://www.apple.com/trailers/universal/thestrangers/ (High-Res Quicktime)

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