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DVD Review: The Strangers (2008)

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The Strangers (2008)

Directed by Bryan Bertino

DVD: The Strangers (2008)The Strangers is supposedly inspired by true events and the on screen text at the beginning of the film informs the viewer that:

'According to the FBI, there are an estimated 1.4 million violent crimes in America each year.

On the night of February 11th, 2005, Kristen McKay and James Hoyt left a friend's wedding reception and returned to the Hoyt family's summer home.

The brutal events that took place there are still not entirely known.'

The film begins with a 911 call placed by a young boy who has wandered into the Hoyt residence and found the carnage left there. He tells the operator there is blood everywhere and so, right from the beginning, the viewer is aware The Strangers is unlikely to have a happy ending.

The next scene shows Kristen (Liv Tyler) and James (Scott Speedman) returning from the aforementioned wedding reception and they both appear to be shell-shocked. James has proposed to Kristen, she has turned him down, and he is taking it hard.

The Strangers (2008)When they arrive home it becomes apparent that James, not anticipating rejection, has tried to make the occasion as special as possible. The floor is carpeted with red rose petals, as is much of the furniture, and the table is set for a champagne supper by candlelight.  

Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman star in The Strangers (2008)James suppers alone and, while Kristen takes a bath, he indulges in a spot of comfort eating and consoles himself with a big, fat tub of ice cream. When Kristen comes back downstairs the atmosphere is tense for a while, but then the couple seem to be close to making up. So close, in fact, that James has already helped Kristen out of her knickers. The moment is lost when the pair are interrupted by a knock at the door. It is 04:05—a little early (or late) for visitors, but James answers the door anyway and finds a young blond girl standing on the step. Young and blond is about as much as he or the viewer can tell though, because the porch lights seem to have mysteriously stopped working. "Is Tamara here?" she asks him, and when James tells her that she has got the wrong house the girl leaves. Or so it seems. When James takes the car and goes to buy Kristen a pack of cigarettes, the girl returns: "Is Tamara here?"

Liv Tyler stars as Kristen Mckay in The Strangers (2008)This is the point where the terror really begins. The girl persists in knocking on the door and when Kristen rings James on his mobile the house phone goes dead. No big deal on its own, but the battery in Kristen's cell is flat and she quickly comes to realize that she is not alone in the house. It is a while before she sees the intruder, but the viewer is aware of his presence much sooner—a man with a sack over his head. Meanwhile the girl continues to bang on the door, is now wearing a mask, and has a friend with her—another girl in a mask.

It is not too long before James gets back, but by then the intruders have faded into the background and James thinks that Kristen is exaggerating. By the time he realizes that she is not it is too late; his car has been trashed and the he and Kristen are trapped.

The Strangers is a scary film and the fact that it is supposedly based on true events adds a little extra edge to the terror. The soundtrack is also extremely effective and I was on the edge of my seat as I listened to the intruders banging about while the record on the player blasted out a rather freaky-sounding tune.

The Strangers (2008)At first Kristen and James only get occasional glimpses of their unwanted guests and just the sight of them in their various masks is enough to give any viewer the heebie-jeebies, but it is never very long before the intruders disappear again and it is twice as scary not to know where they are. As an example, at one point Kristen is injured, and crawling along the lawn, when she sees a girl sitting on the swing. Kristen looks away for a moment, and when she looks back the girl is gone, leaving the swing to swing alone.

The Strangers (2008)The masked maniacs take their time. They obviously enjoy terrorizing their victims and are so confident and competent at it that it creates the impression they have done it many times before. In the end though, when they have finished playing, and are ready to get down to business, they remove their masks and the fact that have removed them provides the viewer with a good idea of what is coming next. Kristen and James are tied to chairs. They are going nowhere. They will identify no one. "Why are you doing this to us," Kristen asks and the answer to that question is very scary indeed: "Because you were home." Everyone needs to feel safe in their home and the idea that someone could be terrorized like this in a place that should be their sanctuary, and for no reason at all, is the stuff of nightmares. Home should never be the wrong place at the wrong time.

I enjoyed watching The Strangers. The terror builds up nicely all the way through the film and rises to a crescendo point at the end. There is, as you might expect, a certain amount of blood on display, but not as much as a lot of the more popular slasher films can boast. The guts of this film is the story itself, and the way it is presented is scary enough without the need for any extra offal on display. 

The Strangers (2008)

DVD: The Strangers (2008)

Buying &

Rental Options

Special Features

Choice of  theartrical or rated cut of  the film

Deleted Scenes

The Elements of Terror (featurette about the making of The Strangers


 Liv Tyler  ...  Kristen McKay
 Scott Speedman ...  James Hoyt

 Glenn Howerton ...  Mike
 Gemma Ward ...  Dollface
 Kip Weeks ...  Man in the Mask
 Laura Margolis ...  Pin-Up Girl
 Alex Fisher ...  1st Mormon Boy
 Peter Clayton-Luce ...  2nd Mormon Boy


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