A regular go-to, show-any-friend-who-hasn’t-seen-much-horror, watches-a-couple-times-a-year movie that I constantly find myself going back too, is arguably one of the most realistic non-fiction movies in the genre. It is a movie that gets under your skin on such a humanely realistic level that no one, anywhere, can say they haven’t thought of the situation happening to them. I’m not talking about the monster under your bed, but more that strange sound you hear in your closet. That fear of looking out your bedroom window and seeing someone looking back. This movie reflects that all too real vibe of being watched but too scared to look and actually see but what happens when you do.
This all goes back to why your Mom told you to never talk to THE STRANGERS.
Keep reading after the trailer
From the opening prologue that teaches you about the “real life” couple that was subjected to this madness thus inspiring the film, I’m always hooked. With only a little backstory, this movie wastes little time in its quest to unnerve you. The rare art of having little to no background music forces you to sit and marinate in all the dialogue, noises and dread shared between the characters. A tactic often used poorly, but when correct, brings a sense of urgency and suspense to a scene.
I’m going to do my best to not spoil anything, although this movie is not one to overthink. It has an incredibly basic plot of having your home (that personal feeling of your safe place) invaded by people that you have no connection with. This invasion is random – an act with no rhyme or reason other than to hurt and scare.
These strangers aren’t just out for blood. They seem to want to scare you much deeper than any wound can. It is much like how my love for Freddy Krueger began. He wasn’t only on the hunt for victims but rather he took great enjoyment in the traumatization before their demise. Ultimately the sadism of the predator’s actions is what satisfies them. These three masked intruders seem to share the same love for that kind of macabre arousal.
The setting is the real star of the movie for me: a beautiful, somewhat outdated, home sitting on a large chunk of land. A long gravel driveway leads up to it. Far enough on the outskirts of town to feel isolated. Funny enough, it almost perfectly mirrors my first girlfriend’s house, allowing me to really picture myself there and in the couple’s shoes. The vastness of the property actually serves as the main limitation too because you are looking for any option to escape and end this nightmare.
The utter madness displayed by the three strangers really is the terrifying part. Worse than The Devil’s Rejects because those people are whacko and make no qualms to hide it. You could say that these strangers are all mentally ill but you can also imagine them just being terribly bored with life. That’s what is really off-putting about it all. There is a real sense that they are all simply making this up as they go along. It is like they jumped into this scenario without any plan, yet seem to have no emotion or worry about it going forward. That’s what is terrifying! They could just be anyone; acting upon one bad thought.
I’ve seen a lot of horror movies in my life both fiction and non-fiction (true crime); documentaries with real footage that have audio so you hear serial killers give detailed descriptions of their murders. But there are a few scenes in this movie which will forever haunt me. The shots where you see these faceless entities hiding in the shadows with only enough light to show their masks remain a particular highlight. They watch you from near and far. This psychological torment is something I still think about any time I hear a bump in the night.
Even after all that horror is completed, the sun rises and a new day starts, the absolute creepiest, weirdest, skin crawling, spine tingling, nightmare inducing line is said (in my opinion). The female lead Kristen (Liv Tyler) simply asks “Why are you doing this to us?” and the female stranger responds….”Because you were home.”
Sweet dreams thinking on that one guys. And whether or not we will ever get to have the long rumoured and production stalled ‘The Strangers 2’, there is no denying exactly what this 2008, 10 million dollar budgeted, horror movie gave us that nine years later I am still scared to think about who could be outside my window or at the front door.