It has been a very long time since I’ve been truly disturbed by a movie. I think the last time I was actually scared while watching a horror movie (as opposed to simply startled) was Salem‘s Lot on video in the mid-1980s. So when during the first 15 minutes of The Strangers, I found myself getting more and more uncomfortable… I started watching to determine why.
To me, this is the perfect horror movie. It’s a horrific event that could occur. The setup is simple. A young couple go to a family-owned cabin in the woods to be alone. A group of strangers begins tormenting them and eventually kills them. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?
And yet, this was one of the most engrossing horror movies I’ve ever seen. I found myself sitting at the edge of my seat (tough to do when watching in bed) to try and catch all the little clues and things in the background.
Director Bryan Bertino took simple cues and used them magnificently — blurry backgrounds, sounds, startles, music… Slight motion in the background, out of focus. Just enough to get your attention, and then as it comes into focus and the camera shifts, you’re thinking “no way, that can’t be happening” — but it is!
Through the use of simple techniques, characters with flaws that are easy to identify with, and a situation that is totally insane yet plausible, Bertino and his cast and crew created a movie that would stand up to additional viewings. That is if I wanted to see it again.
Funny enough, I found that I don’t like being disturbed quite in the way that this movie achieved. But I have to say that this has to be the best made horror film I have ever seen. I don’t say that lightly. However, like Saving Private Ryan, it’s not a movie that I will ever see again. Too intense.
But if you like to be scared… The Strangers did a masterful job of it for me. I’ll give it a solid 4 out of 4 stars.
Until next time…
p.s. Pick up The Strangers and Salem’s Lot on DVD at Amazon!