The Strangers (2008) (AKA "The Faces")
Starring: Scott Speedman, Liv Tyler, Gemma Ward
Back in 2006, France released Ils (or Them for you non-French), a home invasion thriller that borrowed some slasher elements and yet was able to create something intense and utterly realistic. Cliches such as investigating noises in the dark as well as renting cabins deeply isolated in the woods may still be present, but at least the directors knew how to make the cast work and their choices realistic.
As a whole, The Strangers felt more like the climax from a slasher movie drawn out to a feature as in most cases, the last third of a film from that sub-genre always involved our leads discovering the murders and tries their best to outwit and survive their attackers. The Strangers did this though with a disappointing drawback; by making the two leads undergo a troubled relationship early on the film, the sense of empathy and tension was rattled. We can't root for these people since we no longer feel frightened for their future but rather we're now merely observing ordinary people that may or may not deserve what's coming to them due to their sad and/or disappointing choices.
|And why not just run them over with your car?|
There's no real story, too, as most of the movie's emphasis were more on the stalkings and psychological torture the intruders are unleashing to their victims which further frustrates some (or rather most) viewers due to their cliched responses from these attacks. What was working for the movie, however, is its slick look and well handled direction when it comes to evoking tension and shock scares from these scenes.
The film kept a gritty and retro-looking exploitation-like feel as the villains has no backstory and their identities are obscured all though the movie; though in today's day and age, you can simply browse through the web to see what these killers really look like without their masks, the effect of their lack of identity and motive sinks in quite nicely as a sense of catharsis can be felt out of the sheer randomness of their crime. Add the fact the film was based on real cases of home invasions and unsolved murders, and you probably will have the urge to check your locks before going to bed after seeing this movie.
It's not a perfect thriller but The Strangers knew what it wanted, just failed to see how to make it work properly. If they had given us a more worthy cast or set character for these killers to take on, we would have something better to talk about in this review. For fans of plot-less yet scare-driven thrillers, you could give this one a shot.
1 Male shot on the face with a shotgun
1 male knifed to death