Writer-director Bryan Bertino made a hugely impressive and incredibly assured directorial debut with The Strangers. A home invasion horror, the 2008 film is loaded with a building tension and it’s definitely not one for the faint-hearted.
The film sees Kristen (Liv Tyler) and James (Scott Speedman) arrive at their isolated home after a wedding. Their relationship has hit a speed bump, but things take a turn when there’s a knock at the front door at four in the morning. Outside there are three masked strangers – and they want to come in…
For The Strangers, it’s clear that Bertino took his creative cues from classic 1970s horror/thrillers such as John Carpenter’s Assault On Precinct 13 and Halloween, as well as Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (the Manson Family murder of Sharon Tate is also an influence). This means that the film has plenty of atmosphere, crafting tension rather than just loading it with jump scares. The piece is mainly a two-hander between Tyler and Speedman with the former being onscreen for the majority of the film’s running time. They’re great at playing the couple in crisis and their building desperation ensures that you root for their survival.
For a first-timer, Bertino directs The Strangers with an assured hand. He really is a great voice within the horror genre and his recent film, The Dark And The Wicked shows that The Strangers was no fluke – in fact he’s just getting better and better. He’s helped out by great cinematography from Peter Sova and precision editing by Saw splicer Kevin Greutert.
You could argue that The Strangers is lacking in story and that it’s simply just a cinematic house of horror. It’s a fair argument, but the film is so well constructed that it doesn’t really matter – it’s a horror movie and a damn good one at that. In fact, The Strangers might be one of the best horror films of the last 15 years.
The blu-ray release of The Strangers from Second Sight Films is another absolute gem from the boutique label. Firstly, the disc includes the theatrical cut and an extended cut of the film (opt for the latter cut). It also includes deleted scenes alongside vintage cast and crew interviews. There’s also a new interview with star Liv Tyler – who clearly loves the film. The best extras are a pair of extended new interviews with writer-director Bryan Bertino and editor Kevin Greutertc – these are fascinating and insightful and a must for fans of the The Strangers and anyone interested in how horror movies are made. Stunning.