The Strangers Is an Unsettling Creepfest

Opening this Friday is The Strangers an unsettling creepfest starring Liv Tyler (Kristen) and Scott Speedman (James) as a couple traveling back late one night to a remote vacation home. It’s been a bad night. James has asked Kristen to marry him and her response was not positive. But their night is going to get a lot worse when three mysterious figures wearing Halloween masks appear at the door -- and they’re not trick-or-treating.

This is one of those home invasion terror flicks like Them (Ils), that frightening French film by David Moreau and Xavier Palud, which was spare and bone-chilling. With The Strangers, writer/director Bryan Bertino gets a lot of things right, and the results are frequently unnerving. The film is vaguely based on the grisly, unsolved, California-based Keddie cabin murders in 1981, but in the press notes the director says he was also inspired of an incident in his childhood when someone knocked on his family home while his parents were out. They later found out these people were just checking to see who wasn’t home so they could rob the house. Here, it’s the opposite -- if the people are home then they go after them. That’s why these types of films are more frightening than the captive/torture variety of modern scare films, because they operate on basic fears of some unknown horror outside the door without particular rhyme or reason waiting to do you harm. And that’s pretty damn scary.

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