Wow. The Strangers was definitely a roller coaster ride for me. Let me walk you through it.
So I started out very confused because I was getting sleepy when I turned the DVD on the other night. Liv Tyler’s “always whispering even when she’s screaming” tone of voice didn’t help matters any. I had no idea what was going on, why Liv and Scott Speedman (the dude from Felicity) were mad at each other because I couldn’t hear anything (Em was sleeping) and I fell asleep by the first flashback.
Which leads me to last night when I couldn’t handle one more second of politics and popped it back in. It turns out that he proposed and she declined. The first 15-20 minutes are basically them being upset and awkward around each other, a strange woman showing up, banging on the door and asking for a woman who doesn’t live there and then the dude leaving. But, that being said, the whole time you know something is going to happen so it’s still kind of tense.
But what really adds to the discomfort of the entire movie (which is a compliment) is the fact that the camera seems to always be moving just a little. According to IMDb, it’s because it was all hand held and steady cams. To me, this is the direct descendant of movies like Halloween and Texas Chainsaw Massacre where there’s so much going on on screen as well as the screen itself kind of adding to the ambiance. I think I mentioned this when talking about some kind of fake documentary, but this kind of camera movement, which could be done with film and digital, makes the movie feel more realistic, like you’re a voyeur watching something insane going down without making it an actual video camera in the story.
So the dude leaves and Liv’s left in the house alone and the people in the creepy masks start screwing with her. This is where the Halloween/TCM comparisons started (specifically Halloween) and basically didn’t let up until the end. One of my favorite aspects of Halloween is when you can just see Michael in the background or when he’s nearby, but the kids can’t see him. This has plenty of that as the characters get incredibly close to Liv, Steve and the only other good guy character in the flick, Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Glenn Howerton (Dennis). There’s even a scene where Steve’s trying to get a car started when you see this hand just barely hovering over his shoulder. You’re not sure what it’s going to do, then it touches him and disappears!
At this point, I’m super into this movie. I felt tense the whole time (up to a certain point) and was definitely sucked into the flick. Especially because it got me really thinking about what it would take to be these killers. I’m assuming they’re normal humans (there’s nothing on screen to the contrary), so these people are actually putting themselves at great risk to terrorize these strangers (it seems to be just a random choice). You don’t know who’s in that house, maybe it’s Rambo or a freaking ninja, anyone could live there! There’s also got to be a fair amount of planning or at least non verbal communications you would have to work out (we only hear them speak once or twice though they could talk when they’re in the woods or whatever). At various times they’re at all the exists screwing with her and Steve, it’s crazy! Those are some well organized psychos.
Okay, so the movie continues on and the dude gets taken out and I start to loose a bit of interest as Liv continues to make more and more mistakes. I get that she’d be scared and there’s a lot going on, but she takes off into the woods and runs into something (my TV sucks, so I’m not sure if you could tell what it was or not) and it almost completely incapacitates her. She spends most of the rest of the movie (about 15-20 minutes) crawling and hobbling around. Wouldn’t adrenaline kick in? Maybe I’m being too picky, but from there she continues to bring attention to herself by crashing into things and hiding directly under a light source in a barn while trying to make a call on an old radio (what?). It was frustrating to see the creepiest movie I’ve seen in a long time with an actually accomplished cast falling into the same old tropes you’re used to when watching a slasher flick. Liv even hides out in a closet (or pantry) in the kitchen while the masks wonder around being weird. At that point it kind of went from “natural successor” to “I’ve seen this before.”
But then, the last few minutes brought be right back in. SPOILERS follow. Liv gets captured and tied up along with Steve. They’re sitting there in the daytime as the killers stand in front of them. Liv asks why they’re doing all this to which one responds “you were home.” Creepy, right? This could have literally happened to anyone with an out-of-the-way house. That sense of randomness is pretty scary to me, like it could happen to me (which is why I live around lots of other people). Anyway, they take their masks off (though we don’t get to see their real faces) and then each take turns stabbing Liv and Steve. It cuts away, but you still hear the sounds of both the knife and Liv and it’s pretty stomach churning. Good work on that, sound guys.
The finale really got me though. There’s two Mormon boys walking their bike along the rode as the truck with the killers passes by and stops. You’re not sure what they’re going to do, but one of the girls just asks for one of their pamplets and they drive on, one girl saying to the other something like “It’ll be easier next time.” What? She was new to the gang? The boys then go on to discover Liv and Steve in the house and those bastards got a huge scare out of me. I lurched so hard that I felt it in my leg until I went to sleep about an hour later. I can’t think of the last time a movie got me like that. Even I’m not going to spoil it for you though.
Seriously, go rent this movie. I know we’re supposed to be getting into the family/holiday season, but dang man, The Strangers is a treat for any horror movie fan.