The home invasion horror flick has seen a resurgence in recent years, what with the remake of Michael Haneke's Funny Games last year and The Last House on the Left remake earlier this year. Neither was very good, and though The Strangers is a new property, loosely based on a real story, it also leaves a lot to be desired.
Brytan Bertino directs, Liv Tylers plays the role of Kristen, and Scott Speedman is her boyfriend James. After a wedding, a drunken James brings Kristen back to his father's isolated summer home. The two are having a lovers spat over a marriage vow, but shortly they'll find they have much bigger problems. A trio of masked psychopaths has decided the couple will make the perfect mark for a night of bloody entertainment.
The film is often erratic, with its characters making some unexpected decisions, but this actually lends to the realism being attempted. The musical selections on the record player in the house are quite good, they add to the mood. The pacing is quite nice, and the film hones in on creating real scares rather than just layer on the gore, but at the same time, it's just not very interesting. The three 'Strangers' cut freakish figures in their masks (especially the bagheaded male, who looks depressed in his cover), and they make up for their lack of any real menace by making some calculated, intelligent decisions on how to keep the leads terrified. The end of the film comes fast, it's under 90 minutes, and the resolution is very predictable and dull.
I've read that a sequel is in the works, and Liv Tyler has signed on for it...so it's obvious when she screams at the end of the film and grabs the little Christian kid who discovers her in the house, she's probably not dead. I'm assuming the sequel will involve a revenge plot, and in my opinion this sort of contradicts the gritty realism of this original.
The Strangers is not the worst I've seen, but the villains are not as diabolical as Funny Games (not even as wild as Michael Pitt's character in the remake). The leads do what they can, with what they are given, but Liv Tyler is at that level where you just kind of think it's Liv Tyler in the film, and not a prepared role. The film is pretty short, and weak as far as content, but if you enjoy this sub-genre of suspense horror, you might want to give it the once over. It's nothing to write home about, even if that home is being invaded by three masked, murderous mischief makers.
Verdict: Indifference [5/10]