Review of The Strangers (2008)
If you say that your film is based on true events it does a lot toward building an atmosphere, and you don't have to do much to prove that any of it is actually true. The Amityville Horror did it, Texas Chainsaw Massacre did it, and in the wake of two mediocre remakes of the aforementioned at least last years creep fest The Strangers did it; with an original script by writer/director Bryan Bertino. I wracked my mighty brain thinking of a horrid murder than might come within an acre of the gruesome encounter depicted in The Strangers and the nearest I came was the Helter Skelter killing of Sharon Tate at the hands of the Manson Family in 1969, and even then the only similarity I could think of was the writing-on-the-wall gimmick and the fact that it was and utterly sensless crime for which the perpretrators give no satisfying explaniation.
There all similarities to reality end and The Strangers forges ahead in the virgin waters of its own reality, with a kitchen knife at its prow. We are quickly introduced to the akward couple we are to root for, in the guises of James (Scott Speedman) and Kristen (Liv Tyler); Poor old Jimmy has proposed to Kristen and been turned down, the poor sod, and while we watch them try to work out whether that spells doom for their relationship (coitus interuptus), a weird chick knocks on the door and heralds a night of terror for the couple that predicably ends with Tyler professing her love for the bloodied up Speedman.
Everything that follows is a perfectly executed exercise in terror, grabbing the "home invasion" gland of the brain and waggling it until it breaks. I think it is most bold in that it never attempts to give us an explanation to the murders; indeed, you never get to glimpse the faces behind those creepy masks. Hollywood spends so much time feeding us answers from the baby food pot of plot, my only fear is that Universal will commision a sequel to answer our questions. I hope the film is never so succesful, because on its on, by its own rules, it is perfect.
I look forward to the stageplay version.