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The Strangers (2008)

A modern-day classic to me that deserves nothing but praise and 15 years on is still just as entertaining, haunting and simply terrifying. Opening with a voice over that is reminiscent of that we see in Texas Chainsaw Massacre, providing brief exposition to key characters and the aftermath that is to follow. It is said here to be based on a true story and since, writer/director Bryan Bertino has provided more context and explained that it is in fact inspired by particular real life events such as the Manson Murders the Keddie Cabin Murders and his own experiences as a child. Such as his recollection of a stranger calling at his home and asking for someone, which was later revealed to be a thief looking for vacant properties. The progressive story development of our two protagonists is done so well. The turmoil that their relationship is suffering is displayed perfectly on screen and feels so genuine and believable. This is both due to great character writing and brilliant performances from Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman. Their performances as both James and Kristen are incredibly captivating, which makes the events that follow all that more difficult to sit through. This film introduced me to the incredible talent that is Joanna Newsom. ‘Sprout and the bean’ is angelic yet haunting and provides the perfect juxtaposition for a film like this. The memorable soundtrack is complimented by a perfectly atmospheric score and effective sound design. Being such an incredibly tense film, it's vital that the score helps build the suspension in key moments and this certainly does just that. This is one of the very few films I have seen that picks up momentum so early on and continues to maintain it through to the closing credits. This isn't an unfamiliar premise but I think many people would struggle to find a film that does the home invasion subgenre better than this. The whole scene when David show up to the house and the man in the mask is slowly walking behind him through the corridor where he is ultimately shot by James is just incredible. I have seen this film countless times and it never seems to lose its impact for me. The strangers themselves are such intimidating horror villains and having no clear motive only amplifies this status. The fact that we never see their face or get any form of backstory to their characters is a brilliant decision made by the writer. The simplicity and mystery makes them all that more terrifying. When they remove their masks at the end as a clear sign of no escape, you can see in that moment that both James and Kristen know that this is the end for them. This final scene is so gut-wrenching to watch. Then taking the bold decision to have the killers walk away unscathed when the credits roll is an unusual one for films similar in premise to this one, making it feel much more realistic and true to life than most others. This film for me is the blue print for the perfect horror film. Proving there is no need for countless victims, no need for over the top violence and no need for exaggerated plots. I find this to be just as effective today on my latest rewatch as I did during my first watch upon its release. What writer and director Bryan Bertino has done here is nothing short of a classic horror and to pick faults in it would be done for the sake of it.


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