The Strangers

What is the genesis of fear? What elements are necessary to make an individual not just jump out of his or her seat, but look over his or her shoulder and lock the bedroom door the following night? The Strangers is a story of Kristen McKay (played by Liv Tyler) and James Hoyt (Scott Speedman), a couple who returns home after a party clearly in distress from a relationship crisis. Their interpersonal problems quickly diminish as three masked assailants show up. Like a pack of wolfs encircling its prey, the next hour and a half is a lesson in the elements of true terror. The Strangers works in its ability to construct a great sense of tension from the first knock on the door all the way to the final scream. When it releases this tension, it releases it with a flurry of sound in visual elements that leave you shaking, tapping your feet or covering your face with your undershirt (the last one being my personal safety escape). It isn’t so much a recreation of the formula as it is a much-improved version of just about every other horror movie currently spinning in and out of theaters. Director Bryan Bertino also realizes some of the most important elements that seem to have been forgotten in horror films. First of all, he creates characters that do not seem foreign. Kristen and James could very well be any couple on the way back from a date (or this movie). Also, the lack of information that we have about the characters allows us to slip into their beaten and bloody shoes. It’s the fact that we could be the ones running in terror from masked assailants that makes true fear. The ability for an audience to feel a common connection with the characters in a horror movie is a fundamental that seems to be left on the screenwriting floor of so many movies. At its heart, The Strangers is a film that takes a tried-and-true formula and makes it into a work of art. Step 1: Condense it. This film is 90 minutes long. Step 2: Create characters as common as the audience. Step 3: Build a tension that will leave your audience in tears. If you’ve been looking for a movie which truly knows what its doing and what it means to create true terror, do give this a shot.