Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Strangers

This past weekend I checked out The Strangers because it looked like it was going to be something a little different than the recent glut of crap that Hollywood tries to pass as horror movies.
It was a little different. Just a little.
That little bit was enough to make it better than a lot of recent horror movies, but it's no masterpiece. When your standard is The Ring and Scream though, it's not hard to look good in comparison.
Our protagonists begin their adventure with a moody car ride to a nice little house in the middle of the woods that turns out to be the male lead's parents' vacation home. He and his love interest clearly have had a fight. James, played by Scott Speedman from Felicity and not Scott Speedman from Underworld:Evolution since James is a giant baby, decides to leave Liv Tyler's Kristen alone at the house so they can have some time apart.
Enter scary people in masks.
The good part is that they make the villains much scarier by making them just human with no allusions toward extraordinary talents or strength. The realism pushes the story along by not calling for the audience to reach too far to believe in the situation. Some genuine suspenseful moments and some real tension are created by mood and not by gore, which is a lot more than can be said for most of the poor excuses for scary movies that have come to theaters recently.
The better part is actually Liv Tyler. She's pretty good in a role that seems like it could have been disastrous in another actress' hands.
The bad part is watching them telegraph the standard suspension building tactics, like Kristen running outside, falling in a ditch and hurting her leg. Who didn't see that coming? And James' buddy showing up and getting shot in the face. Wow, creative.
The worse part is the continual shaky, hand-held camera use trying to create mood. Yeah, lots of movies have used it to try to look cool and creative, but it comes off just looking cheap and contrived. Good use of hand-held camera work is based around moderation. Making the vast majority of your movie hand-held just looks like you didn't want to try to compose your shots or put effort into cinematography.
Overall, I give The Strangers a C- because it is watchable, but not good.
--John Berry, Online Editor--

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