Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sticking Up For The Strangers

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I've heard countless people bash The Strangers over the past couple months and I have had just about enough of the shenanigans! I'm here to defend it! Yes, doll face, pin up girl, and dude in pillow case, i'm sticking up for you! While I wouldn't say I loved the film in such an unhealthy fashion as to raise eyebrows from my colleagues, nor do I have colleagues, I will say I quite enjoyed it ; enough to spread the good word on it. With the dvd hitting shelves October 21st I figured, in lieu of writing up a boring long winded review which i've been so known to do, i'd try and (in an equally boring and long winded fashion) give you good enough reason to go out and buy it and check it out for yourself. Or rent it. Or steal it. Or illegally download it on a torrent website, which I do not condone but if I ran a torrent website i'd call it Jack Torrents. Ya know, like from The Shining. Not that i've ever contemplated running such a site, it just popped into my head. And if you get caught for either stealing or downloading, don't say I told ya to. And write me in prison.

By the way, I will freely admit that this is one of those posts where the title came to me in a prophetic vision and now I have to write a whole lot to cover it's ass. But I think i'm up for the task!

The premise, if you're not yet aware of it, is pretty simple. Kristen McKay (Steven Tylers not fat daughter Liv) and James Hoyt (Scott Speedman), a couple who have awkwardly just ended their almost engagement, return from a wedding reception to the now even more awkwardly dressed for love vacation house where they, according to James' plans, were gonna be celebrating said almost engagement. In the middle of the awkward night, a 'stranger' knocks at their door, demanding to know if Tamara, an unknown woman, is home. From then on, three strangers in masks begin to torment the doomed couple, eventually entering their home hell bent on not only killing the two but scaring the shit out of them, and us, in the process.

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Now don't get me wrong, I agree with many of the points many of you have been making as to why the movie sucks, I just don't agree that they in fact make the movie suck. If that makes any sense. It's highly unoriginal, the character's actions are continually stupid (James keeps leaving Kristen's side even though she's obviously in grave danger/arming themselves with a shotgun and then never really doing anything useful with it), and, well, that's really all the bad I can say about it. Come on, doesn't every horror movie suffer from a bit of unoriginality and stupid characters? Get off it's case!

On to the good. The Strangers is freakin creepy! And i'm not afraid to admit it. I was creeped out! I watched it alone in a dark and empty theater and yes, my head darted back behind several times to make sure no one in a weird mask was peering at me. My neck still hurts. There's many scenes where the strangers are walking around or staring in the background as Liv Tyler is doing normal chores around the house that are pretty frightening.

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These masked baddies (two girls and a guy..female serial killers...bout time!) have literally no motive, no rhyme or reason for what they are doing which is what makes the movie so cool and chilling, to me at least. Kristen and James didn't wrong them in any way and there's nothing they can to do to stop what's coming to them. They're simply gonna be killed because, as one character says, 'you were home'. Writer/director Bryan Bertino obviously drew inspiration from the Tate/LaBianca Manson murders of the late 60's so, while it is not actually 'based on true events' like it proclaims at the beginning, it certaintly has some rooting in the truth and could very well happen to any one of us. After doing some research I found that the film is also partially inspired by an event from Bertino's past. A stranger came to his home one night asking for someone who didn't live there and then vanished. He later found out that the empty homes in the neighborhood were broken into that night. Spoooooky.

The film opens with an obvious homage to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre ; a John Laroquette wanna-be narrating and telling us about the brutal murders which we are about to see take place. Much like Chainsaw, this effectively serves as a guarantee that you're gonna see the main characters slaughtered by minute 90. Can't beat that! Sure the narration is unoriginal as is proclaiming a film to be based on true events when it's really not, but Bertino obviously knows what horror fans like and this opening let me know I was in store for something pretty cool, a sort of throwback to classic horror.

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Supense is this movies fuckin middle name. I was literally on my edge of the seat the entire time. Ok, I really wasn't it just sounded cool. When are you ever really on the edge of your seat, anyway? What does that even mean? It sounds dangerous. There's one particular scene where a line from a song, which i'm not cultured enough to know the name of, repeats several dozen times on the broken record player while Tyler runs and hides from the masked marauders that is totally awesome. And how cool is this! The first murder that takes place in the movie isn't even at the hand of the killers! God damn it's hard to not give anything away and still have things to type here.

We all hate jump scares, right? Sure, The Strangers is full of them, but they're not used as a substitute for real scares, cause we get some of those too. So it's all good. I forgive you, jump scares.

The killers are badass, which is the first thing any good horror movie needs. We never see their real faces and they seldom speak, which only helps make them scarier and cooler. There's a reason Myers, Voorhees, and Leatherface were granted no voice boxes. Speaking of Jason, the main dude, called simply 'Man in the Mask', is an obvious homage to Voorhee's look in Friday part 2 (and the killer in Town That Dreaded Sundown) and his two female pals (the previously mentioned Pin-up Girl and Doll Face) are decked out in equally cool masks...and they use axes. Check and check.

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The ending is pretty awesome, but a lot of people really didn't seem too keen on it. In fact, when I first watched it I kinda didn't like it either, but i've come to appreciate it. I'm not giving anything away by saying Speedman and Tyler end up on the wrong side of the knife and are dead by film's end because they proclaim that fact right in the opening. After an hour and halfs torment from the strangers, you wonder how the death scenes can top all that we've seen and...they really don't...but they don't have to. They're done in a sort of Bill's death in Kill Bill vol. 2 way, and the casualness and quickness of it all ends up being creepier and more effective then anything.

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The ending also leaves sequel room, a sequel which is already in the works and i'm all for it! 'It'll be easier this time'! Can't wait to check it out although I don't see it being nearly as good as this one.

Ya, it's unoriginal. No, it's not the best horror movie ever made. But as far as new horror goes, it's pretty fuckin good and it's an awesome throwback to old school horror. Ya know, the days before torture porn took over (not bashing, I love me some Goreno). When it comes out on dvd October 21st, you sure as shit should at least give it a rent. Watch it on Halloween night with some pals, you won't be dissapointed. And if you are, be easy on me.

I hope I haven't given too much away and I hope i've more then convinced you to stop listening to your asshole friends and check the movie out. Now you may write me my check, Rogue Pictures.

Go answer your door, I think I hear someone knocking....

3 comments:

Jason Takes Portland said...

Hey I finally caught this as I have been sick the last few days. On a side note I also saw American Psycho 2 on Fear Net. Mila Kunis and William Shatner staring? How could I resist? I should have. The first film is one of my favorites but this totally blew!

Anyways, I enjoyed the Strangers mostly because of execution, the sound design was amazing (the wheezing of the masked guy/skipping record was very creepy) and it was well shot. The plot and the characters was pretty lame, doesn't anyone know the number for 9-1-1? Also having seen Funny Games, these types of movies seem to have lost some of their meaning.

willy jerk-off said...

Liv Tyler is 32 now so she`s 14 years past the peak of her physical attractiveness and desirability (the magic is gone beleive me) but back in 1995 when that bird was 18 she was maybe the hottest most incredible chick of all time.

Eric Flapjack Ashley said...

Thank you for writing this! I am always defending THE STRANGERS to people... the last quarter of the movie may open the door to some questionable character decisions, but the movie is so suspenseful, unflinching and terrifying. To me at least. :)

The movie reminds me a lot of a film called THEM (Ils) from 2006. In fact, the STRANGERS was so similar to ILS that it could be played off as a semi-remake. Both were great, great movies that emphasized the thrill of the hunt rather than the gore of the kill.