Review: The Strangers
|Starring||Liv Tyler, Scott Speedman, Gemma Ward|
|Release||30 MAY (US) 29 AUG (UK) Certificate 15|
The plot is predictable enough: couple Kristen (Tyler) and James (Speedman) return to their isolated family vacation home after a wedding and soon find themselves besieged by masked strangers - big whoop. The execution, though, is exemplary: as hokey as the set-up sounds, it's a recipe for sphincter-tightening terror, with first-time director Bertino using eerie bad guys and a claustrophobic location to its fullest.
Far from leaning on conventions like Wes Craven's Scream series, The Strangers embraces genre cliché and milks it for all its worth. Included are plenty of trademark gormless Horror Movie Moments - the spooky barn (with bonus CB radio), the creepy swing-set, the convenient household shotgun. There are faces in windows, bodies in cupboards and twitching curtains. But The Strangers works because it so persistently abides by the rules. The shocks are telegraphed and agonisingly drawn out. You are practically led by the hand into danger. It is, at times, maddeningly frustrating. But, point in fact, your arse will be clenched tighter than a vice throughout.
It helps that The Strangers looks beautiful - it's immaculately lit throughout, with soft, flickering candle-light proving extremely conducive to scares. Audio is equally impressive - few horror movies really appreciate the use of sound FX to build tension but The Strangers is just as distressing on the ear as it is the eye (the clack-clack-clack of a mischievous stick dragged across a railing is always a winner). It might look like a bog-standard slasher movie on paper, but on the big screen, it's undeniably effective.
You could argue that you've seen it all before. The home invasion? See superb French thriller Them. The cloth mask? The Orphanage's Sackboy all growned up. The spooky masks. Done to death, as recently as Vacancy last year. Yup, there's little of anything new to be found here. But it matters not: you've come to be scared and The Strangers doesn't disappoint. Just get comfortable, sit back and smile at the slaughter - unlike Funny Games, at least this is bloodshed you can enjoy. Ali