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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
Click poster to enlarge
More posters to select

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Scott Speedman
Liv Tyler
Gemma Ward
Kip Weeks
Laura Margolis.
Directors
Bryan Bertino.
Screenwriters
Running Time
85 minutes

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The Strangers
Don’t open the door — you might find worse than the gas man


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Plot
James Hoyt (Scott Speedman) and Kristen McKay (Liv Tyler) arrive at the Hoyt family’s remote summer home in the middle of the night. Already miserable thanks to a relationship crisis, the couple are stalked and menaced by three masked strangers who are able to get into the house.


Review
The Strangers

This premise is so simple, only a tyro writer-director like Bryan Bertino would dare pitch it. Even the similar French-Romanian movie Ils (Them) was constructed around a revelation that complicates its couple-terrorised-by-barely-seen-intruders business. This is a single idea, with only enough characterisation to force an audience to invest emotionally in the victims.

Romantic James (Scott Speedman) has strewn rose petals, Champagne and candles around his isolated family retreat assuming his girlfriend (Liv Tyler) will accept a marriage proposal, but things haven’t turned out well (cannily, we don’t find out why she’s nixed him), and both are glumly gutted when the first apparent prankster hammers on the front door.


Like much recent horror, from the homages of the Grindhouse gang through flat multiplex remakes of drive-in classics, The Strangers looks to the ’70s. It opens with a Texas Chain Saw Massacre-like ominous “What you are about to see is inspired by true events” narration, and an impressively distressed Tyler plays a gruelling Jamie Lee Curtis-in-Halloween game of deadly hide-and-seek with a masked murderer. Bertino has grasped the secret of the slasher movie - you can’t have suspense if you spend too much time making your monsters cool and not enough on the innocents undergoing the ordeal. The trio of strangers, in plastic masks or an inside-out pillowcase, owe a little to the Mansons but don’t even get an urban legend psycho backstory like Michael Myers - one of the scariest moments is when the masks come off, but we don’t really see their faces even then.


This is undeniably effective suspense-horror, and Bertino stages quiet chills and short, sharp shocks with a technical expertise which suggests he has a future if he ever grows a heart. Like many recent films (Hostel, Vacancy, Eden Lake, even The Dark Knight), an ingredient is missing - the most vicious ’70s horror films still had humour and perspective. This shows only a relentless commitment to being no fun at all, which is vaguely admirable but ultimately self-defeating. The message of ’70s horror was that straight society was crazy; the 2008 version is that other people are shit - it’s a fine distinction, but makes a depressing difference.


Verdict
An effective, scary emotional work-out, but perhaps you can have too much paranoid despair.


Reviewed by Kim Newman

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for The Strangers
Empire Star Rating

scary and effective, but doesn't manage to maintain the interest throughout. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by jackcarlin18 at 22:39, 31 May 2012 | Report This Post


Pointless and nasty. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Gerard Lough at 19:30, 26 September 2010 | Report This Post


Cliche after cliche after cliche

After an extremely promising beginning, with the sense of impending doom ominously slow burning, this film just leapt into the horror genre  as painting by numbers leapt into the world of art. The works already been done, they`re just colouring it in. Woman alone in building,check. Person appears in background she doesn`t know is there, check. Banging on door, check. Call partner instead of police, check. Face suddenly appearing at window, check. Oh no here comes a baddie, hang on, no... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by markdavies at 11:09, 18 August 2009 | Report This Post


No Motive

The strangers had absolutely no motive. Why did they do this? This movie left me confused and dissapointed. Give me Vacancy anyday. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Halo14 at 04:56, 28 January 2009 | Report This Post


Pointless!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Horror is without a doubt my favourite genre but this was just terrible. I think most people will find this scary because it was 'based on true events' but im sorry, that just isnt enough. There were a couple of good frights and I quite liked the the bit when they removed their masks but the faces still wearnt revealed but all in all, it was far too short and could have done with a morsal of story line, just to give the film a point!!!!!! Rent Eden Lake instead! Rant over! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by guysalisbury at 17:29, 07 January 2009 | Report This Post


Pointless!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Horror is without a doubt my favourite genre but this was just terrible. I think most people will find this scary because it was 'based on true events' but im sorry, that just isnt enough. There were a couple of good frights and I quite liked the the bit when they removed their masks but the faces still wearnt revealed but all in all, it was far too short and could have done with a morsal of story line, just to give the film a point!!!!!! Rent Eden Lake instead! Rant over! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by guysalisbury at 17:29, 07 January 2009 | Report This Post


Scared Me To Beyond Beliefs.

I always wanted to see this film when it came out, kept seeing the trailer on YouTube and couldn't wait to see this terrifying movie. So I finally rented it out and saw it last night not alone thank goodness but if I did I would without doubt have serious nightmares. The fact that it's based on true events sends shivers down your spine, the unnvering voice in the background telling you what happens before the film begins does make you wonder what lies ahead. The two leads are very good, Liv Tyle... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by joanna likes films at 09:31, 28 December 2008 | Report This Post


The Strangers

It felt a lot like ordering a burger without the fries or being served an apple crumble minus the custard, not completely unsatisfactorily but definitely lacking in the overall ratings when it comes to fulfilment. The problem with ‘The Strangers’ is that the concept is unapologetically too simple. The first act of Bertino’s film offers a promising build up of unadulterated, nihilistic suspense. Yet somewhere near the 30 minute mark, the story teeters into the dangerous (ya... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Danni at 13:43, 20 November 2008 | Report This Post


What was the point????

Depressing and almost pointless - the suspense was fantastic but please excuse the cheese when I say shouldn't there be just a little pay off in the end???!!!! Even Hostel had a humerous pay off after all the grime! Given that was a rubbish film! Okay but you wouldn't watch it twice! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by robcao at 23:28, 18 September 2008 | Report This Post


back to basics horror

It is always interesting to read people's reviews, and god bless Kim Newman, he is sort of a horror guru, so if he had given this movie one star, i dont think i would have gone to my multiplex to see it. Two stars, i might have, since i have been following this film for a while and have been very curious about it. It definitely is worthy of three stars, and is a back to basics horror film, with no buckets of blood, simple plot, and jump out your seat scares. It does work though, but having se... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by The Driver at 08:16, 06 September 2008 | Report This Post


Short and not so sweet film

Watched this last night and to add to the tension the cinema was virtually empty, which was good for atomsphere but its a shame more people won't get to see it. As other people have said there is only a limited back story which helps to get straight into building the tension with great use of sound and isolated location. We've all seen this story before with a young city couple in the woods but its good to see a new eerie and scary take on this genre. I must admit I did think the ending wa... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by gomey75 at 16:22, 05 September 2008 | Report This Post


f**k it, im giving it full marks

i'll give this five, not cause it's a brilliant movie as such...story? what story? i'm giving it 5, because i saw this at the cinema on wednesday and i was gripped from opening shot-final shot. it was great fun to watch, incredibly tense and some great scares. its definatly worth a night out at the cinema and i think it did everything it set out to do. great stuff. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Al Swearengen at 15:17, 05 September 2008 | Report This Post


why why why?

oh this was a bad film, the first half hour to 40 mins was okay, then it just got boring, and the end? WHY? stupid ending, although i liked the clear homage to the 70s and i agree that the lack of gore was a good trade off for classical suspense. but generally, wasnt impressed. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Nat nat at 21:41, 04 September 2008 | Report This Post


Double check your locks

Okay, so if you've seen Halloween and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre then you've seen this done before. But more of a good thing is still a good thing. Also its nice to see a horror film that doesn't go for the easy option of just pilling on the gore to generate a response from its audience. Horror hasent been done this well in a very long time. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Tindum at 14:33, 03 September 2008 | Report This Post


Will get you jumping (maybe)

Very jumpy, and yes, most of it was predictable. The ending was a bit disappointing, and also pointless. Good film overall, not great, not bad, just average. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Pepsi99 at 15:04, 02 September 2008 | Report This Post


RE: The Strangers

Saw this last night, thought it was enjoyable and it was refreshing to see a horror relying on tension and sound rather than blood and gore. However while it had moments of brilliance I felt overall it became rather generic and predictable, even repetitive in parts. Could of done without the "Texas Chainsaw" style opening narration and unlike that film, the final scenes could of gone a bit further and been a bit more brutal. The idea is great though, hope the sequel isn't just a retread. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by LeonardShelby at 18:36, 01 September 2008 | Report This Post


The Strangers

"The Strangers" is about a couple (Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman) who come back to there remote family home after a wedding. Things are a little awkward between the two because James Hoyt (Scott Speedman) has just proposed to Kristen McKay (Liv Tyler...(read more) ) however they have to stay together for the night as there is no where else for them to stay. Soon after they get back they are visited by "strangers" who keep repeatedly bangs on the door and will not leave. Very ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by jon12393 at 19:12, 31 August 2008 | Report This Post


RE: It's a chiller with bite.

Saw angersight,and must say it's the best movie i've seen Liv Tyler in scine Lord Of The Rings.This is one scary movie well acted by all,and brillantly directed too,it's very dark and there is no dark humour to release you from it's terrifeing grip.To say to much would give away the plot,so take my word for it,if you like nasty movies like Straw Dogs,Halloween,and Texas Chainsaw then this will fit the bill,and deliver the shocks you desirie without bucket loads of gore.know empire gave it a 3 s... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by evil bill at 19:10, 31 August 2008 | Report This Post


Very Disappointing

The film was utterly pointless and not thrilling in the slightest but just depressing and dull. It relied purely on loud noises to get the audience jumping and there were too many inconsistancies throughout the film (people walking/breaking in silently in one scene and making sound in another etc,) and I saw everything comming a mile away. Don't waste your money. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Workshed at 13:58, 31 August 2008 | Report This Post


RE:

L: nc_jj Amazing horror movie. sp; Nope, it was not.  Lol, sorry but I agree with Starscream. The Strangers starts off well but then just drags and drags and drags....the end was just anything but shocking. Could see it coming a mile off. It just fell flat with the audience I saw with. I'm gutted because I'd heard really good buzz on this.   AJOR MAJOR SPOILERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!/b]  The only way a sequel (Which is now comfirme... More

Posted by The REAL Bozz at 19:46, 30 August 2008 | Report This Post


RE: The strangers

Very Disappointing, Predictable and stupid. It was so boring for the first 45 minutes that I almost fell asleep. The charecters weren't fleshed out so I didn't sympathize with them and couldn't wait for the inevitable to happen. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Starscream at 18:51, 30 August 2008 | Report This Post


The strangers

An effective horror with many jumpy bits throughout. Most probably the best horror this summer. (If Eden Lake isn't any good, which i doubt) ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Blue Ryan at 09:41, 30 August 2008 | Report This Post


The strangers

An effective horror with many jumpy bits throughout. Most probably the best horror this summer. (If Eden Lake isn't any good, which i doubt) ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Blue Ryan at 09:41, 30 August 2008 | Report This Post


loved it - great horror/thriller

How refreshing to see horror done properly. It was amazingly tense, I agree with the other comments that humor would have been inappropriate, although I remember it had a few nervous laughs? - can't recall what they were now though. The shot that features in the poster is a great money shot, the audience I was with screamed at it, and quite a few times throughout. I first heard about this movie in a magazine well over a year ago and have been dying to see it every since, it didn't disappoint one... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by tysmuse2 at 00:56, 30 August 2008 | Report This Post


good, but not brilliant

me and my friends seen it today for my friends birthday, i enjoyed it, especially the scene where scott speedmans amigo comes in and gets his head blown off, as he walks in you see the male stranger slowly approaching him from behind and doesn't do jack shit. other than that bit and some other tense scenes its a drag, not what a lot of people expected, certaintly not for me, but i'd see it again ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by mozzaman at 20:00, 29 August 2008 | Report This Post


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