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Movie Review: The Strangers

The Strangers serves up a ton of legitimate scary moments. It reminds us what the term “terrifying” really means. The Strangers opens in theaters, May 30th.

The definition of horror can be a difficult thing to grasp, and in what sense the term applies strictly to the horrific — the gruesome, the strange – the last 10 years of horror films have been sufficiently entertaining. More and more, however, there’s been a growing divide between the horrific and the terrifying, between that which is gory or disturbing and that which is legitimately scary. If the last decade has witnessed the rise and fall of American remakes; teen-friendly, PG-13 slasher flicks; and the hardcore Hostel/Saw torture motif; one wonders if — in some small way — The Strangers isn’t a response to that.

For as effective as they are at offering up a healthy portion of gore or a comprehensive collection of long-haired, Japanese dead girls, those films are largely aesthetic experiences. And in the watered-down, semi-adopted sense of the word, most audiences might confuse them for “scary.” But as a fan of those movies, it’s a shocking experience when a small, tensely-crafted film such as The Strangers comes along – almost uninvited – and reminds you what the term “terrifying” truly means.

The set-up is as simple as they come. Two lovers (Scott Speedman and Liv Tyler), in the aftermath of a downturn in their relationship, are forced to spend the evening in a secluded, country home after returning from a nearby wedding. Enter the strangers – three masked psychotics who taunt and stalk the couple through the terrifying pre-dawn hours. Ironically, for a film called The Strangers the premise is incredibly familiar, but it’s in the execution where the film succeeds.

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