Death comes call­ing

THE STRANGERS Di­rected by Bryan Bertino. Star­ring Liv Tyler, Scott Speed­man, Gemma Ward, Kip Weeks, Laura Mar­go­lis

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews - DON­ALD CLARKE

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

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