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Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Strangers

      Is it just me or does horror pretty much suck these days?  I mean occasionally you stumble across a diamond in the rough, but usually they just suck.  But then I saw "The Strangers" and all was forgiven.  Now first of all, I'm fully aware of all the negative criticism this movie received.  And I know that it's not a perfect movie by any means.  Having said all of that- I loved this movie.  I really did.  Every minute.  It had a wonderful old-fashioned feeling to it, you know?  Besides the cellphone, "The Strangers" doesn't really smack of now, know what I mean?  It could almost be the 80's in this movie.  Almost.  The story is simple.  Two people are terrorized in their house by strangers in the middle of the night.  It's that simple.  And that's where the brilliance is.  Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman are a young couple staying at his parents summer home in upstate New York, I think.  Late that night they get a knock on the door. A female voice asks for Tamara.
 She leaves.  And comes back. Then things start to get really scary.  There is no psychological mumbo-jumbo.  No back to avenge so and so's death.  No supernatural forces at work.  Just simply 3 weirdos out for some demented kicks who decide to terrorize some random person in their own home.  And that to me, is horrifying.  

     When I was in the 8th grade we had some guy running around town peeping in windows and knocking on doors and making prank phone calls. Of course he never actually killed anybody, but it was still unsettling, to say the least.  Who hasn't been home alone at night and heard strange noises?  Or had that spine-tingling feeling that you're being watched?  We all have, and the makers of "The Strangers" know this and use it.  This is like some "Helter Skelter" meets "Halloween" meets "When A Stranger Calls" shit.  (Originals of course!)  I actually kept thinking of "Helter Skelter" while I was watching the movie and how frightening of a book it is.  (It really is and if you're into this sort of thing I highly suggest reading it- you will be scared.)  Just the randomness of "The Strangers" I found scary, much like how Manson's family would pick a house, dress in black and crawl through a window at night and creep around targeted person's home, maybe putting a knife to their throat, maybe not.  That to me is disturbing stuff, to be sure.

     Certain movies come along once in awhile and tap into that certain spot in our subconscious.  This movie did that to me.  "The Strangers" was a throwback to those old, hoary slashers I grew up watching in my childhood.  We were scared silly watching this in the theater- popcorn was flying, drinks were spilling, people were on the edge of their seats.  This is exactly how a scary movie should be.  Usually I find myself bored to tears in most horror movies, sadly enough.  And I don't think I'm just jaded and cynical and "I've just seen fucking everything, you know..."- I'm not that kind of person.  I still have the ability to be frightened, it just doesn't happen that often.  That's why I'm so thrilled when it does happen.  Once again, I found myself in the minority on this one.  We loved the movie and exited the theater laughing and talking and giddy like teenage girls.  But then I started hearing the reviews.  Negative this and horrible that.  It sucked, it was boring, stupid... blah, blah, blah...  What?  Were they talking about the same movie I had just been so frightened of?  When you watch as many horror movies as I do, you see that most of them really are terrible.  I really do think "The Strangers" was a truly inspired horror flick.  Maybe I enjoyed it so much because I wasn't really expecting much in the first place.  I had read something on it about a year or so before it was released theatrically and really only saw the trailer a couple of times, but had not heard much about it at all.  There were 5 of us that went together and we all very much enjoyed the movie. And what I found the most frightening about "The Strangers"?  This could really happen.  Easily.  It has happened before- not this particular situation, mind you, but people have been terrorized in their own homes before by strangers.   Like I said, this movie is NOT perfect.  It does contain some basic scary movie cliches and cheap scare tactics,  but he director rises above those and redeems himself by building up the tension to an almost unbearable point.  The movie has a remarkable sense of dread throughout.  A somewhat flawed production, but still, I really liked this movie.  I don't expect everybody to have my same taste and opinions by any means.   As usual I'm in the minority on this one yet again.  And I'm perfectly cool with that.

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