Surprisingly this did not suck. I say "surprisingly" because I just wasn't swallowing that Liv Tyler would be in a decent horror flick, though I can't say why I felt that way. Maybe because she was in Armageddon? probably not fair to her. Sorry Liv.
The Strangers does quite a lot of borrowing from other films. I don't mean that in a bad way and it's not to imply that the film is derivative in any way, just that its not entirely "original". First off, the storyline borrows the old "true story" bit from films like Texas Chainsaw. It also has a similar tone and plotline as "Ils", a French horror film from a couple of years ago.
But the biggest, um, "inspiration" has to be from Halloween (78 version). There really is no getting around the fact that the cinematography, lighting and overall feel of the film is direct from John Carpenter's notebook. Menacing images slowly materialize into view at times, sinister villians gradually appear in the background, never quite in focus and never doing much more than staring, head slightly bent to one side ala Michael Myers. And it totally works.
The Strangers is a scary movie - it's tense and has a lot of "jump out at you scares" that are never "just the cat". The plot is mindless and simple to the point of stupidity: a couple is spending the evening at home when three masked strangers begin terrorizing them with the intent to kill them. Simple. And while critics have been quick to point this out - the lack of social commentary, the lack of "reason" and "resolution", the lack of motive, etc. - the fact that the movie is so linear in it's approach and so hell-bent on simply being scary and icky makes it succeed. Unlike some films of late that have tried to recapture the gritty grindhouse feel of 70's sleaze-horror, The Strangers pulls it off by simply dumbing it all down and not thinking too much. Well played, sir.
- Complaint Department