Blu-ray Review: The Strangers (Unrated)

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I gave The Strangers a rather harsh review when I saw it in the theaters (read here). As I was watching the Blu-ray I began wondering if I had been way off base . The first half of this film is creepy, atmospheric and damn good. However, at the 43 minute mark all the problems I had with the film came back to me as it quickly turned from an inventive and creepy thriller into a film that was its own worst enemy. As I said in my theatrical review, the victims in this film can’t help but be terrorized as they continue to run into harm’s way or become the source of their own distress.

The film features three nameless and faceless villains as they terrorize an unsuspecting couple just home from a wedding ceremony where the guy (Scott Speedman) asked the woman (Liv Tyler) to marry him, to which she said, “No,” adding a bit of additional tension between the protagonists in the early going before the terror begins. Thunderous knocks at the door and a masked face at the window offer some serious scares in the early going, but then it devolves into one of those horrors where the victims split up, hide out then run and just continue to do all the things idiots do in horror films only in an effort to continue the storyline. Why can’t there ever be any smart victims?

It truly is a shame the second half of this film is so cliché while the opening half is so inventive and creepy. All the tension I had while watching the first 43 minutes disappeared as soon as originality turned into cliché. Unfortunately for The Strangers I am grading it on how much I liked it and then ultimately disliked it. Had the opening not been as good as it was I would have probably been a little kinder in the end, but you can’t go from great to terrible and get away with it. Writer/director Bryan Bertino already proved he had the talent to make a genuinely unique scary movie, so when it turns into just another horror film it is that much more depressing.

I will say Universal’s continuing trend of using DTS audio on all of their Blu-ray discs continues to pay-off as the sound design of this film is phenomenal. The knocks on the massive front door are outstanding and, even though I knew it was coming, when that slap on the window occurs I still jumped just as I did in the theater. The picture is fantastic as the film is drenched in an amber glow, but the look of the film isn’t enough to make up for the missteps.

As for the features it is limited to one generic making-of featurette not even worth the watch.

The Strangers is a film to rent and some of you may find out you actually like it, but for the majority I can’t help but believe you will feel just as I did. I can already see you as you watch the second half of the film yelling, “No! Don’t do that!”

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