OV Shocktober Staple: The Strangers (2008)

Throughout Shocktober, I plan on writing about a ton of different movies. Some of them I watch every year and some will be first viewings. To kick off Shocktober, I chose something familiar. A staple of the Shocktober holiday for me. The Strangers…

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Every now and then I’ll find myself driving through the country. Living in Indiana, a long stretch of country landscape isn’t that hard to come by. Whenever I find myself passing through, I let my mind wander a bit. I wonder what it would be like to live in a house with a few acres of land and 30-40 miles of open road separating me from civilization. I imagine how peaceful it would be to have such a quiet life free of distraction.

the-strangersThen I remember 2008’s The Strangers, the home invasion movie starring Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman. They play a couple that, after a bad night at a wedding, spend the night in a cozy summer home. From there masked strangers outside of the house taunt them. Soon enough, the strangers gain entry and the couple tries frantically to escape.

I have a thing about slasher movies. I love them but they don’t frighten me. Really, any horror movie that pits people against other, more psychotic, people doesn’t get to me on a fear level. This is simply because I know that a bullet will stop the people trying to kill the protagonists. Villains in most slasher flicks aren’t indestructible or otherworldly. They are people. It’s hard for me to feel fear knowing that the person meant to strike fear in me dropped a deuce after having their morning cup of coffee about 12 hours before their rampage.

I like slasher movies specifically because they are low risk in the fear department. If I watch a slasher movie, I know it’s most likely not going to have a lasting effect on me. That doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate it, though. Sometimes I just want an entertaining thriller with a little violence and suspense. It doesn’t mean I’m going to have trouble sleeping later.

Enter The Strangers.

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The Strangers is a unique movie in the sense that it is effectively creepy. It’s a movie about people trying to kill people while managing to instill fear in me. This is a rarity.

The slow camerawork in the movie gives it a great build up of tension. The entire movie was shot with hand-held cameras and the subtle, constant movement really adds to the eerie nature of the movie. That eeriness is carried through to the movie’s very tense finale.

The reason I wanted to watch The Strangers was mostly due to me watching The Purge a few days ago. I’ll save anyone curious the time and just say that The Purge was awful. But it made me appreciate The Strangers (one of several movies it ripped off with no remorse) for the intense, frightening experience that it is.

the-purge-movieIn The Purge, the main villain is a loony tunes character played by a man who double majored in Overacting and Scene Chewing. His go-to tactic to show he’s a psychopath is to grin like a moron every chance he gets.

Meanwhile in The Strangers, the titular evildoers emote a creepiness that perfectly matches the tension that is being built around the two central characters’ struggle for survival. It’s a great example of various filmmaking elements working in tandem to create something that is a great inclusion to a subgenre of horror that I rarely get to feel the full effect of.

Because of that, I am deeming The Strangers worthy of a “Bargain Buy.” It’s worth the space on your DVD shelf, but horror is the most subjective of genres and thus it may not be for everyone.

Obsessive Grade: Bargain Buy

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10 responses to “OV Shocktober Staple: The Strangers (2008)

  1. It had some chills and thrills, but in the end, just felt like a lame way to do an invasion-thriller and try your damn near hardest to stretch it out way longer than 80 minutes. Good review Matt.

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    • Ha. Interesting take on the movie, Dan. Thanks for sharing. It’s funny, I had pretty much that same reaction to The Purge. But definitely not for The Strangers.

      I didn’t get around to mentioning in the review that I also really liked how the characters’ awkwardly crumbling relationship helped set the tone and carry the tension. That always stuck with me on repeat viewings.

      I can see how it could drag for some people. By the time Liv Tyler gets to the radio in the barn outside, I start wondering how much time is left.

      I still love it though.

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  2. CMrok93, after watching the Strangers several times, I tend to agree with you. The movie drags toward the end.

    Matt, I feel like I need to clarify why slasher movie scare me so much. While I agree with you that in a one on one fight with a slasher villain, you would win with a gun. But you’re assuming that you would be one of the last of the victims and be aware that there is a killer on the loose. You’re not afraid of a creepy voice asking you to play a game on the phone, because you would hide in a room with a gun.

    I am not afraid of these situations. Well….I am, but I can see why you wouldn’t be.

    I’m afraid of those dark moments at night, when I get up to pee in the dark. I’m afraid of looking in the mirror and seeing safety, then opening the medicine cabinet, closing it, and seeing a masked lunatic with a knife milliseconds away from cutting my head off. You can’t prepare for those moments. Michael Myers doesn’t taunt, he stalks unsuspected and stabs you only moments after you realize he’s there. I’m afraid of being defenseless, and these situations ABSOLUTELY happen in real life. You will not, without a bit of doubt, ever in your life, be possessed by a demon. Ever.

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    • I know exactly what you mean, Mike. We’ve debated this so much. I love it. I’m absolutely afraid of the dark moments at night. For me, when you’re alone at night and you think you see or hear something and you feel that cold shiver run up your spine, that’s kind of the height of terror.

      People have different interpretations of what would be in the darkness waiting to harm you. (There’s actually a really good Doctor Who episode called The God Complex that’s sort of about this concept.) For me, it’s always a fear of something unknown to me. Something I can’t control or can’t get the upper hand with.

      Not to say I think I’m some bad ass who’s going to take down an intruder or masked psychopath. Honestly, I probably won’t. But, to me, there are so many variables with that.

      Even in The Strangers, if the guy with the ax behind Glenn Howerton’s character had bumped his leg or something, the game would have been up and the last half of the movie would have been different or considerably shorter (assuming the strangers just offed them as soon as the tension broke).

      If they hadn’t answered the door, none of it would have happened.

      It’s hard to explain why I prefer supernatural stuff (when done right) to the real world stuff. You know very well how I feel about this stuff in real life. But movies are about escapism.

      It’s all about suspension of disbelief for me, so if a movie presents its world well enough, I’ll get roped in. It’s the same kind of thing with comic movies. I know exposure to lethal amounts of gamma radiation would kill anyone but that doesn’t stop me from watching the Hulk kick ass in The Avengers.

      The funny thing is, my go-to defense for my lack of fear with slashers is that “you can kill them with a gun.” I say this even though I know there’s no foreseeable situation where I will be under attack by a psychopath, while I have a gun in my hand.

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  3. “It’s all about suspension of disbelief for me, so if a movie presents its world well enough, I’ll get roped in.”

    –This so hard! That’s what it’s all about, really. Innit?

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  4. “It’s all about suspension of disbelief for me, so if a movie presents its world well enough, I’ll get roped in.”

    –This, so hard! That’s what it’s all about, innit?

    Like

  5. Great post, I thought the almost unbearable scenes of silence where so effective and when that record began to skip, it really freaked me out.

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  6. Pingback: OV’s Shocktober: The Purge (2013) [First and Only Viewing] | The Obsessive Viewer

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