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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

The Strangers (2008)
(2020 Limited Edition)


Starring: Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman
Distributor: Second Sight Films


Certificate: 15
Release Date: 28 September 2020

James proposes to his girlfriend Kristen at a friend’s wedding, but it doesn’t exactly go the way he planned it. A romantic getaway strewn with rose petals and champagne turns into an awkward situation when they arrive at the house. The tension and frustration between them builds to sex; however, they are interrupted by a pounding on the front door. The young woman at the door is wreathed in darkness. She enquires after an unrecognised name and then leaves. James notices the bulb in the porch has been loosened. He decides it would be prudent to leave, and phones a friend to collect him because he has been drinking. But shortly afterwards decides to drive anyway. The young woman returns to pound on the door and refuses to leave. A frightened Kirsten manages to phone James and ask him to return, before the line is cut. This is just the beginning of a terrifying home invasion by three masked figures – and the couple’s only means of escape has been destroyed...

The film begins very much like a documentary. First there is a message which reads that it is inspired by true events which took place on 11th February 2005, when Kristen McKay and James Hoyt left a friend’s wedding reception and returned to the Hoyt family’s summer home. It states that the brutal events that took place there are still not entirely known. Secondly, there is the handheld camera shaking. We are shown a series of isolated houses and then the stilted conversation between the couple. Initially, it seems as though it is purposefully implemented to cause an off-kilter feeling of unease. But as it continues in other scenes you realise it is a mistake (particularly in close-ups) and proves a little distracting.

Whilst coming across as uninteresting on the included long interview, nevertheless, for a debut full film, writer/director Bryan Bertino constructs a taut little thriller here. Although it’s never mentioned during the movie, the invading characters were named by Bertino as Man in the Mask, played by Kip Weeks (a white sack with holes burnt in it – Friday the 13th Part 2 anyone?), Dollface, played by Gemma Ward (a theatrical-style manikin look), and Pin-Up Girl (a 1950s exaggerated look of a pretty young woman). All are somewhat creepy, but it is the body language which makes it work. There is very little movement, many of the shots being stationary with limbs limp and head very slightly hung. When there is action from these faceless intruders it comes in brief but quick – almost spasmodic – movements. It’s a successful manner of keeping their motives ambiguous. That is another thing: all through the film you are searching for a motive when there isn’t one. It’s only natural to assume revenge stemming from the wedding party, and so the intrigue keeps you guessing.

When this project was first completed it sat on the shelf of the film company for quite a while before they were convinced there was still an audience for a home invasion story with a pretty downbeat ending. “Why are you doing this to us?” “Because you’re home.” It is just as well they did, because the movie makes good use of long-shots and particularly of sound shocks, with unseen moving furniture, sudden banging and taunting noises which seem to be coming from all around the house. At one point Kirsten hides inside a closet, looking out through a slatted door closet – very much borrowed from John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978). Not surprising when you consider the young director here was heavily influenced by that classic film.

This is a Limited Edition Blu-ray Boxset release of only 3,000 copies. It features new artwork and a poster, a Soft Cover Book with new essays by Anton Bitel and Mary Beth McAndrews, plus stills and behind-the-scenes images. Extras on the disc include: the choice of viewing the Theatrical or Extended Cut; 'Because You Were Home' – a New Interview with Bryan Bertino; 'Cutting Moments' – a New Interview with Editor Kivin Greutert; 'The Fighter' – a New Interview with Liv Tyler (Kristen); 'The Pin-Up Girl' – a New Interview with Laura Margolis; 'The Elements of Terror' – Interviews with Cast & Crew; 'Strangers at the Door' – Interviews with Director Bryan Bertino and Cast; 'Deleted Scenes'; and a 'Theatrical Trailer'.


Ty Power

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