Saturday, May 31, 2008
THE STRANGERS: A REVIEW
Okay, so I came in with a VERY open mind and LOW expectations for the horror-thriller THE STRANGERS, a 10 million dollar home invasion film that has just NOW gotten released after being on the shelf for nearly a year and a half over at Rogue Pictures and Intrepid Pictures.
The basic plot line: A yuppie couple couple staying in an isolated vacation home are terrorized by three unknown assailants. (courtesy of imdb.com) The plot is paper thin, yes--It is a horror film. It would be ridiculous to assume something on the magnitude of STRAW DOGS (1971-a classic home invasion-like horror-thriller from the 1970's starring Dustin Hoffman and Susan George--points if anyone can tell me what controversial film she starred in which involved her having illicit relations with a black slave...:)).
But, so much could have been done. Honestly, more character development could have been added to at least make Kristen McKay (Liv Tyler) and James Hoyt (Scott Speedman) somewhat likeable, hell, at least realistic in how they individually and respectively would have acted. I couldn't stand either one of them, and I just prayed they'd die earlier and violently so I could justify the $6 matinee price and the 90 minutes I lost watching the movie.
But, the cast does what they can with what they are given, with Tyler especially managing to be resilient--even if her character is written as ridiculously weak and idiotic. Tyler managed to wring some sympathy and moments of strength as a woman who is trying to figure out how survive the night, knowing that that is becoming bleaker and bleaker by the hour...
The masked assailants (Gemma Ward, Kip Weeks, and Laura Margolis) were able to do so MUCH with little to no dialogue whatsoever. I credit all three of them with the ability to effectively convey murderous tension...without saying anything or little at all.
Scott Speedman: Eh, it was official back in his Felicity days that he's eye candy only, and not much else. His character was annoying and one note, and Speedman couldn't even achieve THAT level of banal mediocrity..of course, he'll be signing up for his next several million dollar plus role in his next project, so his acting skills really AREN'T going to be looked at much..but, his acting leaves a LOT to be desired....PERIOD.
The movie's biggest fault is with Bryan Bertino, the writer-director of this film. This is is first movie, and it shows. The first hour is filled with tension and the right amount of atmospheric aura needed for a film like this. He gets points for not showing violence on screen, and his sound man should SO get awards for utilizing the sound of the film (creaky floorboards, records skipping, etc.) for highest levels of fright and tension.
However, the writing was horrid and leaves a lot to be desired. Bertino could have done so MUCH more with 10 million dollars than the dreck he put out this weekend. Rogue Pictures and Intrepid Pictures should really slap the shit out of their development people who green lighted this picture.
Clearly, the audience knows this isn't going to be a true scare fest, because we're told at the beginning of the film that this is INSPIRED by true events....OK. Great...thanks for killing what little chance we as the audience had for suspension of belief which would have lead to a genuinely authentic horror-thriller experience...one that should have been given to us if the script was stronger....
Also, I won't even talk about the implausibility factor (Kristen is running around in the dark with NO SHOES ON? GIRL...the killers could have had bear traps all UP in the mix, and you're running everywhere, giving us Drew Barrymore with contralto theatrics before the credits in SCREAM?!?!?!?!?!?!..That's what you get for not having a flashlight and running right into a ditch and fucking your foot UP! I laughed when you fell, and I laughed when you slithered/crawled, booty all pooched up in the air giving us human snake like shenanigans...Those scenes were SO for the horned out straight boys in the audience)
Common sense would have been very KEY to making this film decent. I'm sure Bryan Bertino will do a better job on his next film...just about as sure as I am that John McCain is the BEST choice for President..NOT.
This is strictly a film you should see on HBO Demand..after being blown OUT on some good weed, two Large Supreme Pizza Hut pies, with buffalo chicken tenders, bread sticks and marinara sauce, which you wash down with $5 jug wine, cheap homemade gin and tonics, and old-school psychedelics...at least then you can pantomime what SHOULD have been a scary horror-thriller and get all "scared" when your cracked out friend with the lazy eye starts chasing everyone around the living room with a knife wearing a white latex rubber mask with his tongue caught on the mouth zipper because that amount of inspiration and "realness" would have been WAY better than what I saw earlier today.
If you want to see how home invasion horror-thrillers are done PROPERLY, get thee to Netflix and rent:
STRAW DOGS (1971)
Ils-Them (2006): A sublimely scary and enjoyable horror-thriller flick that is about home invasion but is WELL DONE with the violence and atmospheric tension. See it in French, because I am sure Fox Searchlight or some "indie" arm of one of the major studios will remake this and place the hot It Boy and It Girl of the moment in the main roles..or something awfully hideous to that regard.
Expect the obligatory Sex And The City movie review (you know damn well I'm going to comment on Jennifer "I can't act my way out of a paper bag and got my Oscar for giving histronics worse than Kathleen Battle before she was fired from the Metropolitan Opera in the 1990s and still got upstaged by Beyonce's weave and ass" Hudson's part as Carrie's assistant, i.e. the fill in black girl role), coming up this week...
as well as reviews of:
The Visitor (before it ends it run here)
Kung Fu Panda (WHAT? I loves the cliched, wire fu animated movies!)
The Happening (cause I love Zooey Deschanel--question, can anyone verify that she's the voice we hear in THE STRANGERS? It's not Gemma Ward at all...I'll have to check on that one)
engaging and worthwhile indie films....
Atmosphere and Tension: B+
Acting: B (for Liv Tyler and the killers)/NE for Scott Speedman
Overall Final Grade: C+