The Strangers is a thriller, directed by Bryan Bertino, focused on a young couple who are terrorized by a mysterious, anonymous trio, starring Scott Speedman, Liv Tyler, Gemma Ward, Kip Weeks, Laura Margolis, the plot is very bare bones but it works as a pretty stripped back, visceral thriller with the young couple – James (Scott Speedman) and Kristen (Liv Tyler) being targeted for seemingly no reason.
Things progress in a way that works to keep you engaged in the mystery of the unknown assailants and their attentions, the three of them wearing different masks, the plot manages to keep you engaged and immersed in the story as it goes on, with it takes place almost entirely in the house as James and Kristen react to their situation and try to keep their attackers out. The randomness and intensity of the three strangers is most of what makes them so terrifying they’re not ghosts, monsters or demons but just three random people, doing what they do because they can and as they say, “because you were home”.
Home invasion films carry that extra weight of empathy and terror as you imagine yourself in that situation and wonder what you would do and in the case of The Strangers, its pretty terrifying to try and put yourself in the characters shoes as try and survive. The film does play up to some thriller clichés and seeing more human, imperfect attackers would have been a nice touch. But as they are, the strangers are ruthless and completely mysterious, contributing to why they’re so fearsome, the film is shot in a way that reflects the random and sporadic nature of the strangers’ attack, close up shots of certain objects that are important in scenes are used, the front door as the strangers back on it, the record player in the living room as it gets jogged and starts creepily repeating a track to create an eery atmosphere in a scene.
And while the film also has a few jump scares as the strangers may pop up at random, some of the more effective scenes are when the strangers are just luckring in the background of a shot, stalking James or Kristen. The film has very few characters in it, with the drama and emotion are brought by Speedman and Tylers’ performances as they react to their situation, they had a potentially hard task in being good enough to make you engage with the characters but they do a good job.
They both don’t really get that much to do in the story but for what they do get, they make good use of, Liv Tyler especially stands out in the film, bringing some intense emotion and frustration for her and James being targeted, while on the other side of the scale, the Strangers performances aren’t important to the story, we get a few lines of dialogue from them and never even see their faces. The film works as a tense thriller, it’s not the most compelling story out there but it’s effective at what it does in presenting faceless, remorseless attackers carrying out their mission just because they can and that in itself is pretty terrifying.
. Has some good performances
. Has some well worked tense scenes
. Plot is gripping, partially because nothing is explained