Death comes calling
THE STRANGERS Directed by Bryan Bertino. Starring Liv Tyler, Scott Speedman, Gemma Ward, Kip Weeks, Laura Margolis
16 cert, gen release, 85 min FOR TOO long the only sounds heard in the American horror film have been screams, death-metal chords and the noise a blade makes when it’s forced through flesh. It is, thus, heartening to encounter a picture that trusts its viewers to be unnerved by curtains of silence, interrupted by the occasional obscure thud.
Bryan Bertino’s debut feature is not an original piece of work. In both plot and style, his economic house-invasion thriller resembles Them, a nifty little French film from 2006. But, keeping in mind how few mainstream shockers exercise any restraint these days, The Strangers still comes across as a minor revelation.
Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman, a middle-class couple with a taste for Joanna Newsom, observe one of the current conventions of the horror film by having a terrible fight before they drive grumpily back to their holiday home. They have not quite finished moping and scowling when a young girl appears at their door and asks for her friend. The couple send her away, but, minutes later, more knocking occurs and intimidating messages appear on the windows. Before too long, knives are wielded.
The Strangers is worth seeing for one brilliant shot in which a hooded tormentor appears silently and watchfully behind an already worried Tyler. Lasting an apparent eternity, the take demonstrates that Bertino isn’t afraid to break with the debased orthodoxies of modern horror cinema.
It hardly needs to be said that – as with other recent films in the genre such as Vacancy and 1408 – the film-makers can’t quite deliver on the promise of a superb buildup, and resort to a great deal of running around and shouting in the final reel.
Still, they do manage a great last shot, and the villains’ one-line explanation for their assault is properly chilling. Horror fans should certainly give The Strangers a glance.
Under siege: Liv Tyler is pursued by one of the titular characters