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The State Hornet

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The student news site of Sacramento State University

The State Hornet

The student news site of Sacramento State University

The State Hornet

Student news without fear or favor

Hornet Horrors: ‘The Strangers’

Lock your doors before watching this flick
%E2%80%9CThe+Strangers%E2%80%9D+manages+to+thrill+and+frighten+by+making+use+of+a+slow+build+up+to+its+scares.+With+solid+performances+and+a+simple+but+effective+premise%2C+this+movie+will+make+you+check+your+door+twice+for+many+nights+to+come.+%28Graphic+created+in+Canva+by+Ariel+Caspar%2C+Image+courtesy+of+Universal+Pictures%29
Ariel Caspar
“The Strangers” manages to thrill and frighten by making use of a slow build up to its scares. With solid performances and a simple but effective premise, this movie will make you check your door twice for many nights to come. (Graphic created in Canva by Ariel Caspar, Image courtesy of Universal Pictures)

A lot of horror movies are, objectively, not actually very scary, being silly enough to be more entertaining than bone chilling. “The Strangers” is not one of those movies.

RELATED: Hornet Horrors: ‘Halloween III: Season of the Witch’

Released in 2008, the film follows a couple who are toyed with by a trio of masked assailants at an isolated house. The concept isn’t a new one, but where “The Strangers” outshines many of its contemporaries is in its execution.

The movie starts with the couple of James and Kristen, played by Scott Speedman and Liv Tyler, arriving at an isolated home after a friend’s wedding. From the start it’s clear something is wrong, and we quickly learn James proposed to Kristen at the reception, but she said no.

Everything about the situation is awkward, but Speedman and Tyler do an excellent job of portraying characters who clearly still care about each other regardless of their deteriorating relationship. It makes the audience sympathize with them, which in turn makes the horror of what’s happening to them that much worse.

(L-R) James (Scott Speedman) and Kristen (Liv Tyler) prepare to defend themselves against the assailants. The two have good chemistry and are effective enough in making the audience care about what happens to them. (Image courtesy of Universal Pictures)

Things take a turn for the worse after a stranger appears at the door, their face covered in shadow, asking if a “Tamara” was there. The situation slowly escalates throughout the night as two more figures begin appearing around the property and in the house, each wearing off-putting masks.

Eventually, help comes in the form of James’s friend Mike, played by Glenn Howerton, but any hope his arrival may bring is quickly averted. Thinking Mike is one of the intruders, James ends up shooting and killing him. It’s a heart-wrenching moment, especially as the couple realizes their mistake.

The two make an attempt to escape and contact help, but they end up captured by the strangers. The couple tries to beg for mercy, but it falls on deaf ears as the assailants take turns stabbing their victims. Later that day the leftover carnage is found by two boys, with a dead Mike and James and a still-alive, but screaming Kristen.

The movie works because it keeps things simple, with its appeal being similar to that of the original “Halloween” movie. The situation, while unlikely, could actually happen to someone in real life. There isn’t some supernatural force powering the antagonists or a convoluted mystery behind the killings.

Ultimately, the couple ends up as victims of a random act of violence. As one of the killers themselves said, they were home.

Tyler and Speedman performances carry much of the movie, as the killers spend the majority of it in the background with minimal dialogue. Their physical acting is solid, managing to match the off-putting appearance of their masks.

(L-R) The titular strangers, named in the credits as Pin-Up Girl (Laura Margolis), Man in the Mask (Kip Weeks) and Dollface (Gemma Ward) prepare to finish off their prey. The following scene is pretty brutal, to the point it borders on torture porn territory. (Image courtesy of Universal Pictures)

A slower pace does a lot for the movie, allowing its jump scares to be built up and feel earned. It’s apparent early on that this life-and-death matter for the victims is nothing more than a game for the killers, taking their time and letting their targets know they’re there.

Of course, this slower pace can also alienate some viewers. It does a lot to help you feel for them, but for someone looking to dissociate on a sleepy afternoon this might not be the right film for them.

The film’s ending sequence may also be a turnoff for a couple reasons. While not as elaborate or gorey as a film from the “Saw” franchise, the way the killers take turns stabbing the couple at the end wouldn’t be out of place in a similar torture porn flick.

Another issue is the final shot, where Kristen, who is somehow still alive, wakes up and screams when the two boys find her. It’s probably the cheapest scare in the movie, and it’s one that feels weirdly out of place with the rest of the film.

If what you’re looking for is a slow-burn horror movie with clear inspiration from 70s exploitation horror, then “The Strangers” is a definite recommendation. But if the overly sadistic ending and pacing aren’t appealing, it should be on your skip list.

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About the Contributor
Jacob Peterson
Jacob Peterson, News Editor
(he/him)
Jacob joined The State Hornet in fall 2022, and served as the spring 2023 visuals editor and now the fall 2023 news editor. He earned his A.A. in journalism at Cosumnes River College and is working on his B. A. at Sac State.
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