The Strangers: Collector’s Edition

Studio: Scream Factory

Mar 07, 2018 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

James Hoyt (Scott Speedman) and Kristen McKay (Liv Tyler) have already had a bad night. After James’ proposal to Kristen at a friend's wedding reception doesn’t pan out, they arrive at his childhood home ready to call it a night in separate rooms. After James calls his friend Mike (Glenn Howerton) and leaves a message to come pick him up in the morning, James and Kristen attempt to talk out this elephant in the room. They are soon interrupted by young blonde woman (Gemma Ward) at the door, assuring the couple that she would “see them later.” It isn’t long before loud banging on the exterior walls, a masked pin-up girl (Laura Margolis) totaling their car with a pickup truck, and a masked man (Kip Weeks) stalking them through the rooms of their house set off a long night of terror and blood.

The Strangers started as a spec screenplay by Bryan Bertino originally titled “The Faces”, to which he submitted for a Nicholl Fellowship with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. After the project was purchased by Universal Studios, it was passed around to several directors (including Mark Romanek), until Bertino was asked by Rogue Pictures to direct it himself. Its debut was on May 30, 2008, nearly a year after its completion. Though it achieved a successful box office return (ranking #3 at the box office its opening weekend), it had a lukewarm reception by the critical community.

Though the filmmakers are adept at their craft (strikingly apparent through several taut nail-biting sequences), ultimately the cardboard characters, endless succession of cheap jumpscares in tandem with hokey audio stingers, and overuse of the musical score dampens the film’s serious potential for dread. Mark Sachen’s color pallette is warm yet unsettling, emphasizing Peter Sova’s claustrophobic, long lens cinematography. When tomandandy’s insistent score shuts up for a moment, Cliff Latimer’s sound editing comes through with an eerie resonance. Speedman and Tyler have bankable chemistry, built through a strong first act with relatable characterization and a firm rising tension with matching stakes, but the film flounders while trying too hard to convince audiences that it's scary, and it simply isn’t.

Mike Mayo’s The Horror Show Guide: The Ultimate Frightfest of Movies lumped this movie with those considered “naturalistic domestic horror”, referencing Michael Haneke's Funny Games. The comparison is a correct and strong one, as they both deal with almost identical themes (in plot and in characterization), though it shouldn’t be considered a viable selling point. If anything, The Strangers is an utterly low-rent Funny Games, striking a distinctly limper punch with greater unneeded flash. So, the takeaway is to just watch Funny Games instead.

Scream Factory has commemorated the 10th anniversary of its release with a Blu-ray collector's edition featuring remastered unrated and theatrical cuts on two separate discs. Tagging along with the original film is a collection of archival cast and crew interviews from the original release, deleted scenes, and promotional trailers. Along with the unrated version, interviews with Bertino, editor Kevin Greutert, and cast members Margolis and Weeks, and a production stills gallery round out the special features. Basic, static menus elicit minimal anticipation, though the outer casing and disc decals are well-designed and eye-catching.

Though personally overall, The Strangers isn’t a movie that contributed much from its release up to this anniversary to warrant a “collector’s edition” treatment; loving fans will find this collection of crisply restored versions and extra features to be an enticing snapshot into contemporary horror movie history.


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