Plot: James (Scott Speedman) and his girlfriend Kristen (Liv Tyler) just returned from a wedding, but the mood is hardly a romantic one and tension between the two is quite palpable. James proposed to his true love, but she declined and claimed he wasn’t ready, which devastated him to no end. He wants to leave the situation as soon as possible, so he phones a ride, though since the home is a remote seasonal area, it will be a wait for someone to arrive. In the meanwhile, a knock at the door is a surprise and the young woman on the other side seeks someone who doesn’t live there, so Kristen assumes it was just a wrong address. But soon more knocks, more strange noises, and aggression arrive from a group of masked strangers, who seem determined to get inside and close to whoever is inside. But who are these mysterious strangers and what do they want with James and Kristen?
Entertainment Value: A tense, atmospheric thriller that starts off well, but then slowly runs of out steam, The Strangers might not break new ground or be all that memorable, but it has some bright spots that hold up. The movie plays on well worn home invasion tropes, down to the “you were home” tagline, but leans more on mood and tension than the violence and aggression of the usual genre fare, or at least it does for a while. The lead in to the arrival of the strangers is quite good, putting our leads in a vulnerable state, then once the first knock happens, things begin a slow burn crawl, which I think is the film’s best element. This stretch of the movie has some good tension, skilled sound design, and eerie visuals, as the strangers prey on the couple’s fears and toy with them, but after that, the movie falls apart. The build up is effective, but the payoff is a big fizzle and the movie loses its nerve. The movie seems to hope senseless violence will shock you enough to distract, but The Strangers fails to deliver even a slightly worthwhile end to the thrill ride. I still think this is a solid thriller thanks to the effective build, though the well worn tropes might dissuade some genre veterans. If you’re a fan of home invasion horror and don’t mind a limp finale, The Strangers is worth a look.
No nakedness. The couple is right on the verge of some sexual healing when someone knocks on the door, which interrupts the fun times. The movie has some brief bursts of active violence, but even when those unfold, there’s minimal bloodshed. A shotgun blast yields the most crimson, but it is just a splash on the wall and some aftermath makeup, which isn’t shown in great detail. Also have some knife wounds, but again, it is all non graphic and non detailed. The finale even drops the ball in the this area, with a groan inducing limp across the finish line. The dialogue is minimal in this one and while passable, isn’t memorable. But this isn’t an issue, as the focus isn’t really on the lines once the visitors arrive. The movie has good, eerie atmosphere for a stretch, but doesn’t go for original or creative elements, so it never feels that wild or inventive.
Overall Insanity: 0/10