Wednesday, September 8, 2010

#77 - The Strangers - 2008

The 7th and final movie I watched the close out the suspense/thriller week was 2008's The Strangers. Categorized by most as a "horror" film I felt this was much more of a suspense/thriller due to lack of blood and gore. It loosely reminds me of a Vacancy type film where basically the victims are being held hostage in a house by people who are mostly outside terrorizing them. It was incredibly creepy and different and definitely another one of those movies that would make you think, "what would I do in this situation"? Besides freak the hell out I don't know but I have an idea. Enough about that though, this isn't about me its about the film so lets move on. Below is my detailed review.

This film's casting was as bare bones as it gets. Not many characters needed besides your basic five and then the helpless friend and two young kids on their bikes. The main character of this film is Kristen McKay played by Liv Tyler and her boyfriend James Hoyt who is played by Scott Speedman. The three killers who are categorized as Doll Face, Pinup Girl, and Man in the Mask are played by Gemma Ward, Laura Margolis, and Kip Weeks. Yes I just said Kip Weeks and yes I believe that is his real name. Crazy huh? I don't think I've ever heard a name like that before and it is just weird for me to type that, Kip Weeks. All the actors were good but Tyler was easily the most convincing throughout the film up until the end. He anguish and screams while getting stabbed did not seem real enough to me but then again I have a fear of knives and getting stabbed so maybe I was looking for a more blood curdling I'm about to die scream? Who knows. Other than that she was good throughout.

The setting for this film was basic, extremely basic. A house out in the middle of nowhere on a quiet street. Add the fact that it takes place at 4am in the dark of the night and you have a great atmosphere for a suspense/thriller or horror if you will. Sometimes the scariest films have the most basic setting. Its kind of like the saying, "less is more". I thought the house out in seclusion was a perfect setting for this film. Even the interior of the house, the front yard, and the shed were great backdrops for this film and all added to the essence of this film.

Similar to the last movie I saw, Running Scared, the beginning of this film starts with the actual end of the movie. Its weird but it doesn't give away a lot besides that there is blood, a knife, a gun, and a broken windshield on a car outside. Two young children call 911 so basically something went wrong, horribly, terribly wrong and something bad happened but you don't know what and that is what is great about it. Now I have to be honest I knew going into this film what it was about based solely on previews and articles so it wasn't like I was expecting a happy ending but based on the first 3 minutes you knew things went really really bad and something horrendous happened in that house. I also enjoyed the creepy voice and narrative at the beginning of the film and the words placed on the screen describing what we were about to watch. I'm always intrigued when it says "based on real life" or something similar.

This film basically follows a young couple who have gone to the man's (James) father's house for a nice getaway after a friends wedding. James had planned an elaborate set up including rose petals, champaign, and ice cream for his girlfriend as he had planned that they would be coming home engaged. This was not the case. His girlfriend Kristen did not accept his proposal so right from the start there was tension between the two and an uncomfortable ness in the air. The film started a bit slow but once it started it never really let up. Their first encounter with the trio from hell came at 4:05am when they heard a loud knock on the door. They go and see a girl asking if Tamara was home and after they said she must have the wrong house she left but the games were about to begin.

What took place inside that house and on the property could only be explained as a pure nightmare, something you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy. It wasn't just the physical pain and infliction which eventually led to death for James and his friend but it was the emotional and mental tole and the sheer terror this couple endured in that house. This film did a great job of providing that terror to this couple and in making it seem real and authentic. I absolutely loved the loud knocks on the door that eventually turned into bangs and scratches. That only heightens the victims fear and for the audience when watching at home with a surround sound system it was pure suspense and I love that. With each knock came a vibration to my wall and it only got better as the film moved along.

There were a lot of truly scary scenes in this movie and the most notable to me was when Kristen first saw the Man in the Mask through the back sliding glass door. That to me was unexpected and absolutely terrifying. It ranks right up there with the scene where Kristen is hiding in the closet and Doll Face appears out of nowhere right in front of her. Those two scenes were probably the two overall scariest ones but there were others that were downright eerie and frightening as well. I thought the scene where we first see the Man in the Mask as he appears behind Kristen without her knowledge in the house while she is standing there quietly alone was so unbelievable creepy as were the scenes where Kristen and James saw all three of them outside just teasing them and playing on there every fear. A simple swing on a swing set never looked so scary.

Other notable scares were when they went upstairs and "hello" was written all over the place while loud bangs against the window and side of the wall could be heard. We cant forget when something (I'm assuming a brick or something similar) comes crashing through Mike's car while he is talking on the cell phone outside. I little jumpy after that no doubt. The Pinup girl makes quite a ruckus in the shed as she pops out of nowhere and the truck scene with the Pinup Girl ramming James car while the Man in the Mask appears in front is pretty darn scary as well. This film had a lot more scares and creepy scenes throughout than I remembered and I really enjoyed it the 3rd time around. I actually liked it better this time than any other.

One thing I haven't touched on is the music and it was brilliant. During some of the most intense nerve racking scene's we hear an array of hillbilly old western type music that makes you feel as if your in the middle of a Wrong Turn or Hills Have Eyes movie. Very creepy and amazingly perfect for this film. It added so much and it did so by just small short doses at the perfect time in the film. In this movie almost as much as any other I've watched up until this point in any genre the music was absolutely perfectly placed in the film. As far as gore and blood and death there was not much of this throughout other than one scene where James accidentally shoots and kills his friend Mike accidentally mistaken him for the Man in the Mask. Besides that we don't see much else except for the torturous knife scene at the end which was hard to watch for me since I have a fear of knives and getting stabbed. To me personally that final torture scene where they get stabbed repeatedly would literally be my worst nightmare. It was tough to watch even though you don't see much if that makes any sense at all.

All in all I thought this was a great film and much much better than I remembered. I can see watching this again on bluray with all the lights out and the surround sound on high just to experience it again in crystal clear high definition. I will have to say the two children on their bikes riding around handing out "Christian Living" pamphlets was so hilarious to me and even more so when one of them asks Doll Face, "are you a sinner" and she politely responds "sometimes". haha. Yeah, you think? Great great great way to end suspense/thriller week! I give this a firm A!

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