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Three mysterious strangers terrorize a young couple in a remote house after they return from a wedding.
For more about The Strangers and the The Strangers Blu-ray release, see the The Strangers Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on October 23, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Liv Tyler, Scott Speedman, Gemma Ward, Kip Weeks, Laura Margolis, Glenn Howerton
Director: Bryan Bertino
» See full cast & crew
The Strangers Blu-ray Review
Lock the doors, turn out the lights, and invite 'The Strangers' into your home theater.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, October 23, 2008
You're gonna die.
The Strangers is 87 minutes of despair and hopelessness. It may be one of the most depressing, disturbing, to-the-point films of the decade, brutally honest in its display of terror and fear. It is a movie without a reason behind the terror, leaving the audience as confused and frightened as the victims portrayed therein. The film furnishes a winning combination that offers just the right amounts of psychological terror and physical violence, and is reminiscent of 2007's Vacancy, although The Strangers is far more vague, depressing, and horrifying. There are several genuine shocks throughout the course of the picture, some, and one in particular, that any astute audience member will pick up on several minutes before they happen, and others, particularly in the film's climactic moments, that will shock and disturb audiences, offering horror fans an ending that perfectly concludes the depressed and confused tone of the picture while commenting on the true meaning of terror.
James (Scott Speedman, Underworld) and Kristen (Liv Tyler, The Incredible Hulk) return home from a wedding -- and after Kristen rejected James' marriage proposal. As the two deal with the aftermath of the rejected proposal, a stranger knocks on the door, asking for a person who does not live at the house. James later leaves to purchase cigarettes for Kristin, and while she is in the home alone, three masked individuals begin terrorizing her, first beating on the door and gradually making their way inside. James quickly returns after a panicked telephone call, and he and Kristin barricade themselves inside the house, hoping to survive the night.
Slow to build, the film's pace deliberately pulls audience members along, causing each to wait with bated breath for the introduction of the film's villains, villains who in the finest tradition of terror, remain anonymous, with vague-at-best motivations, no morals or scruples, the worst of intentions, and relentless in their delivery of fear and paranoia to their victims. This long sequence before the actual appearance of the strangers permits the film to enhance the character development between the two leads, James and Kristin. Despite their differences and clear love for one another, despite the rejected marriage proposal, there is never any doubt they will band together through the film's most trying times. Still, it makes them real people with genuine emotions that the audience is able to relate to. Because of this, the situation they are unwittingly thrust into becomes all the more real and terrifying, and allows the audience to feel closer to the victims and makes the film far more personal and the sense of peril and anguish far more palpable. The two primary characters undergo three kinds of hurt throughout the picture -- emotional pain caused by the pending termination of their romantic relationship, the psychological terror they endure at the hands of the masked strangers, and the physical violence inflicted upon them for no apparent reason. The film runs the gamut of emotions, taking the time to allow each one to take its toll on the characters, and by proxy, the audience. The film succeeds at several levels, the most obvious being its ability to make the audience feel as if they were in the same dire straits as the on-screen characters themselves.
The slow introduction of the films antagonists builds dread, and their gradual revelation, seen first in only shadows or in an out-of-focus corner of the screen, unbeknownst to the protagonists, makes for one of the better entrances in recent horror movie memory. The simple glimpse of a hooded figure lurking in the distance, barely in-frame, makes for spine-tingling scenes, and the almost agonizing build-up, taking more than a third of the film, makes it all the more horrific. The Strangers also uses sound effects to wonderful, bone-chilling effect. The strangers frequently beat on the front door, the booming repercussions heard and felt throughout the home, resulting in alarmed panic by both the protagonists and the audience. The broken record effect serves as a chilling backdrop to the introduction of the strangers. Looping over and over, the sound is nearly akin to fingernails on a chalkboard, an annoying, repetitious sound that might be a source of laughter elsewhere, but is used to frightening effect here. Suddenly, the needle is lifted from the record, signaling the presence of someone in the home.
The Strangers Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Strangers visit Blu-ray in a 1080p, 2.35:1-framed transfer. Most of the visuals throughout the film offer a mixture of shadows and poorly lit locations that are drenched in a soft golden, amber, or red hue. The color brightens up in a few flashbacks scenes of the wedding the characters attended in the early moments of the film. Here, colors pick up a bit though flesh tones appear pale but seemingly accurate. Detail is moderate throughout the film. There is a slight softness to much of the transfer. Take a scene after James has left to get the cigarettes and Kristen is left to wander the house. For all the trinkets and furniture, none of it stands out as particularly strong, and the image lacks realistic depth. The soft lighting clearly plays a part in this, and the disc seems to resolve the detail as best it can, given the lighting conditions and inherently straightforward style of filmmaking that does make the movie feel more intimate and immediately dangerous. Blacks appear crushed in certain scenes, but deep and accurate in others, and in some scenes, the blacks take on a hint of gray. The Strangers offers viewers a solid transfer, one that suits the dim, demoralizing look of the picture well.
The Strangers Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Strangers invades Blu-ray with a well-mixed DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. The sound is bass-heavy to add a palpable sense of foreboding to the beginning of the movie. It is extremely effective, and, along with the baritone voiceover, the film effectively signals the coming of something terrible. The music, at times, plays quietly in the corners of the soundtrack, almost as if it is forcibly hidden away, again a means of adding to the creepy atmosphere of the film. The track does well to create minor ambience in the early scenes, for example reproducing the sound of crickets chirping outside the house that sound as natural as if they were outside your own home on a sticky summer's night. The first knock on the door emanates from the rear channel. It becomes a loud, power-packed series of thuds that are just one more in what has been a string of sonic clues to set the mood for the film. A smoke alarm that goes off in chapter six sounds as real as it gets, that annoying high-pitched screech that is so effective in doing its job. A car crash in chapter 10 is loud but clean, the smashing and crushing of metal on metal a powerful moment in the film as each speaker practically throws shattered glass and twisted fenders into the living room. Surrounds are used prominently throughout the entire movie, and the film features a nearly nonstop barrage of the sounds of violence and terror played with pinpoint precision. From the slightest whisper to the loudest cry for help, from the most subtle nuance to the most violent crashes heard throughout the film, The Strangers relies as much on its soundtrack as it does its visuals to convey the terror of the film, and the Blu-ray does not disappoint in the least.
The Strangers Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Strangers leaves much to the imagination, offering only minimal bonus materials. The Elements of Terror (1080i, 9:13) is first. This supplemental feature describes the film as "a new approach to the genre," a "terror" picture rather than a traditional horror film. The piece, through interview snippets with the cast and crew, presents viewers with the ideas behind the film, a look at the set, the capturing of the sounds, the challenges of acting in a film such as this, the make-up, and the visual effects. Two deleted scenes (480p, 4:51) are next. Finally, this disc is BD-Live (Blu-ray profile 2.0) enabled. The page offers previews for upcoming Blu-ray and theatrical releases, but no exclusive content.
The Strangers Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Strangers is a fine Terror movie, one that makes its point without spraying the camera with blood for 90 minutes. Rather, the film relies on fear of the unknown by placing both its characters and the audience in imminent peril. The film uses sound, visuals, a deliberately slow pace, and a gradual build-up of tension to tell its frightening tale, and the vague nature of the film, and the pure evil put on display, makes The Strangers a fine addition to the Terror film genre. Universal's Blu-ray release of The Strangers features a rather subdued video transfer that appears accurate to the film's intended look and a dynamic soundtrack that greatly adds to the palpable fear of the film. Unfortunately, the studio has skimped on the bonus materials. The Strangers makes for a fine addition to any Terror aficionado's Blu-ray library. Recommended.
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