The Strangers (2008)

Starring: Liv Tyler, Scott Speedman, Glenn Howerton, Gemma Ward, Kip Weeks, Laura Margolis

Directed by: Bryan Bertino

Rating: 1 2

Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman face The Strangers. Ooooh, I'm scared...

I often think that the difference between thriller and horror movies lies in the motive. In a thriller, frightening things usually happen for a reason: vengeance, intrigue, money, sex. In a horror movie, frightening things just happen.

In The Strangers, young couple Kristen (Liv Tyler) and James (Scott Speedman) are terrorised, tortured and finally killed (oops, was that a spoiler?) simply because they were home. Oh, and because they were REALLY BLOODY STUPID.

Pop quiz. If you were staying in an isolated house in the country and you heard a big scary banging on the door at 4am would you (a) Keep quiet and pretend you're not in (b) Switch all the lights out and hide under the bed, or (c) Open the door? And if you then heard some strange noises and suspected there was an intruder in the house, would you (a) Phone the police on your mobile (b) Discover your mobile is out of power and phone the police on the landline, or (c) Charge your mobile and phone your boyfriend on the landline?

Liv Tyler faces stranger danger

I had hoped that with a feisty actress like Liv Tyler in the 'final girl' role, this might be more than your usual run-of-the-mill multiplex horror-movie-by-numbers. I was wrong. Instead, our woefully miscast heroine stumbles around barefoot (Why? Why? Particularly after she's been hiding out in a wardrobe – full of shoes), hobbles herself the minute she leaves the house by tripping over a twig (or something), blubs breathlessly into a radio instead of giving her location and hides out in a cupboard with a slatted door.

Sure, there are shocks aplenty (particularly shocking if, like most of the audience, you're only about twelve), and the initial appearances by the masked intruders are a bit freaky, but even the shrieking children become immune to the 'he's behind you' style after an hour or so. And the ending, which has been so grimly inevitable since the start that it doesn't come as a surprise to anyone, is a bit of an anticlimax. Perhaps director Bryan Bertino, like the sadistic strangers, realises that, generally, the fun is all in the run up to the killing, not the killing itself. But if you've failed to be frightened by the run up (and in the end, what do the freaky family actually DO, other than make a few noises then hang around in the shadows looking sinister, where our cowering couple can't see them anyway), you can only be disappointed.

I suppose if I didn't go and see films like this, I wouldn't realise how lucky I am to get to see real, nasty, inventive, cruel horror like, say, Mum and Dad. Let's just hope the screaming twelve-year-olds come to realise that when it comes to horror, mainstream fodder like The Strangers only skims the surface of the nastiness that lies beneath. Oh, and let's hope they learn to phone the police, an' all...

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