I can still remember the experience I had seeing Brian Bertino’s The Strangers in vivid detail — A carload of my closest friends and self-proclaimed horror-heads drove to the theater and eagerly awaited our visit from ‘The Strangers.’ Within minutes, I could feel the atmosphere around me getting tense. I didn’t bother to glance at any of my friends’ faces because I was too enthralled in the events that were unfolding in front of me, on the gigantic screen.
The sound design of this film was and is still, in my opinion, its driving force. It isn’t meant to be viewed on a small TV with standard sound. It is meant for the darkest room in your house and the loudest 5.1 surround sound that you can play it on. Every creak of wood or whistle of wind chimes outside the kitchen window will have you turning your head, sucking you further and further into the film. Pure Hitchcock… it was and still is one of my favorite horror films of the last 20 years.
When the lights came on, I couldn’t wait to sing my praises. I found that my friends opinions were split, however, right down the middle; Two of them hated it and two of them loved it. The car ride home was filled with our explanations of what we liked and disliked. The reasons for hating it were as follows: It was too slow and wasn’t gory enough, which is usually what I find when I have conversations about it to this day.
I think Bertino’s genius is obviously not for the casual horror fan expecting buckets of blood, nudity, and an overwhelmingly high body count of cardboard characters, which are films I love, too, by the way. He is more subtle with his approach, which can leave a bitter taste in your mouth, if you’re expecting Friday the 13th part 11. The Strangers gives you enough character development to chew on and drops the tension right in your lap with expert timing. Once we start to feel connected with our characters and their personal dilemma, all hell breaks loose and refuses to let up.
The absolute best thing this film does is create an ungodly amount of tension in such a short time. It almost feels like it plays out in real-time, which is another lesson from the boss, Hitchcock, from his best film Rope. It’s been almost seven years since I saw The Strangers in theaters and it still packs a punch.
This film begs for multiple re-visits. Go ahead and watch it again. If you didn’t care much for it the first time, who knows, maybe it will have a different effect on you this time around.
I personally give this film 4 out of 5 cellphone batteries.