The Strangers

Horror has gone through many stages in the film industry. In the recent years, we’ve seen the revival of of the “splatter film” genre that has encouraged gore saturated films such as Saw, Hostel, and many others who essentially “followed the leader.” Hollywood has also pushed the “PG-13” genre of Horror as well with such “classics” as The Ring, The Grudge, White Noise, One Missed Call, etc. The term “classic” was used in sarcastically, mind you, as I have a great amount of disdain for “dumbed down” horror films which are nothing more than loose remakes that essentially take all the good things about the film their remaking and throw it in a furnace. Then the ashes are scrapped out and thrown together in a mediocre (at best) pile of garbage. And yet the film still manages to pull in enough profit from the box office and DVD sales to warrant a sequel that’s even further devoid of quality and dignity than it’s predecessor…

The Strangers manages to succeed in not filtering it’s content for a PG-13 audience and I’ll congratulate it for at least getting that far. The basic idea to the film can be found in the title. Imagine your sitting at home and then become randomly targeted by a group of individuals you have no ties to or have ever met previously and a game of cat and mouse ensues until your inevitably captured and the predictable outcome arises... While I dug the concept, there’s clearly not enough substance to warrant 90 minutes of this cat and mouse game the film loves to showcase. It really feels like the film’s dragging it’s feet the entire time through a predictable plot line and ultimately leads to the final outcome which was fairly disappointing…

Before I continue to rip the film apart even further, I will get what I liked about it out of the way now. As mentioned before, I liked the original concept. The idea of complete strangers terrorizing victims randomly because they simply felt like it is something played upon in Horror films beforehand, but not in this down-to-earth sort of way The Strangers delivers upon. That said, the film is realistic to a certain degree and provides a intriguing take on the concept it delivers upon… The acting is surprisingly acceptable and each actor fits well into their respective role. The last redeeming quality regarding the film was a hand full of sequences and shots that were very intriguing and well crafted. One particular shot that comes to mind was the sequence at the end that featured all three of the strangers standing over the two main characters who are tied up. A spoiler warning really isn’t necessary since the shot was given away on one of the posters released for the film…

While my mind is on the subject of the camera, allow me to address the “phenomenon” known as “Shaky Camera Syndrome” (abbreviated as SCS). [In actuality, there’s a proper name for it but I would rather stick with “SCS” since it’s shorter and took all of a few seconds to improvise.] While I personally don’t mind the implementation of “SCS” at times (See: Cloverfield) it can be a rather tiresome and annoying technique if overly or poorly implemented. The Strangers succeeds in falling into both ruts as the SCS is seen in nearly every single shot. Overkill seems to be the best way to describe it as even in certain scenes that do not hold any particular excuse to implement the technique are riddled with “The Shakes.” A word of advice to film makers; do not litter your film with a technique taken out of it’s context and poorly crafted at that. Simply shaking the camera in a particularly random manner does not mean you’ve successfully managed to utilize the technique correctly. It’s rather annoying and comes across as the director shoving the technique down the audience’s throat rather than the alternative.

While the concept is intriguing, it feels more fit as a stand alone episode of a television series or perhaps a made for television film. The film loves to stall and delay the inevitable outcome through a series of “cat and mouse” games that gives me the feeling the film makers really did not have much to work with and artificially lengthened the film in a poor manner. While the film did manage to hook me at times, I was immediately lost by the sheer predictability present throughout the entire experience. The entire plot line feels recycled in many aspects and ultimately takes some piss poor twists and turns that could be spotted long before they took place on the screen. And the moronic moments laced within the predictability further kills any chance the film’s plot line had on winning me over.

The Strangers is a film that has some intriguing ideas and concepts laced within it’s core. The fact we never see a clear shot of The Stranger’s faces was a good creative choice. And the overall message featured certainly is not a bad choice, creative wise. Unfortunately, the few good aspects of the film are clouded by a predictable plot line, moronic moments in the story, and a lackluster finale that fails to deliver after all of the build up throughout. In the end, it’s simply mediocre. There’s nothing here really worth your time or money that can not be see pulled off in a much better manner in another film of the same genre.

Pro’s: Intriguing concept, a couple well crafted shots, and acceptable acting.

Con’s: Predictable plot line, concept feels shallow when stretched out to 90 minutes, the shaky camera technique is poorly placed and crafted, and disappointing finale.

Conclusion: A intriguing concept and a couple well crafted moments aren’t enough to hide the flaws that keep The Strangers from carving a place of it’s own within the Horror genre of film.

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