Strangers, The (Blu-ray / DVD)
Reviewed by Nomad
Starring Liv Tyler, Scott Speedman, Kip Weeks, Gemma Ward, Laura Margolis
Directed by Bryan Bertino
Distributed by Universal Studios Home Entertainment
The Strangers, for me, was a rare gem. Many have argued that the film presented nothing new. Granted, a male and female isolated from the world and in constant terror from oncoming assailants is far from a fresh subject, but how often do we see this pulled off successfully? In this attempt, we’ve got Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman acting their asses off. Much of their performance lies in reaction to sound or blatant, relentless threat and anticipation of all of the above. With superior ability and no small amount of chemistry, it is pulled off beautifully. This is a quiet film that slowly unfolds to reveal the lover’s heartache, and so the tone fits that. Soulful music crackles from a record player, into the air and across high rafters, vibrating all through this old ranch house until interrupted by a masked trio who delight in tormenting our couple.
The music becomes an unseen, unbiased character in the film, weaving a mournful tapestry for our victims and assailants alike and even summoned by a misplaced step as a woman flees for her life. It was this tone, use of jarring, violent sound and sudden bursts of action that made The Strangers a film I was proud to recommend to all those asking “When can we see a REAL horror movie?” This is a basic lesson in fear. Fear comes from what we see as we realize how alone our two lovers truly are. Fear comes from what is unseen as the maniacal trio slam against the door, run metal objects across the face of the house or race through the woods with little finesse, cracking branches underfoot, seemingly calling out to their victims that they could come at any time. Fear also comes to us later as we ask why someone would do something so horrible to someone else, with such focused intent. Fear lies in the fact that it could happen to you at any time.
Being such a basic premise, the trailer and commercials had little choice but to give away the entire plot, to an extent. The only question left unanswered, but alluded to in footage released, would be who gets to live? While interviewing Speedman and Tyler, I was told the original ending was way more violent, vicious and without hope than the theatrical version, making me more than a little excited for an uncut director’s version on DVD!
Universal answered my prayers with this uncut addition, but upon viewing, I’d realized that either the actor’s version of a sick ending is way tamer than mine or the promised carnage is elsewhere. The only additional footage is seen at the very end of the unrated version of the film (both are present on this disk) and consists of that image we’d seen on the posters and the trailer of Liv just crawling across the floor and little else. HUGE disappointment! It’s not like I wanted to see an extra half hour of torture, reducing a severely creepy tale to a quivering, wet snuff film. It’s just that when you say the words UNRATED to me, I expect there to be something added that bothered the censors so much that they said “Ok ... either that sick shit comes out or this movie won’t be released” causing high fives all around. This new, shocking moment never happens. You are left with an ever so slightly longer version than the theatrical release, which in itself is worth the price of the Blu-ray or DVD, and nothing more. Sad, sad, sad. I’m not sure why they bothered cutting this back into the film at all.
Other than the Blu-ray version being in high-def and BD-Live enabled there's no difference between these two home video packages. On hand on each respective release are two deleted scenes which add little more to the film. I tend to call these “throw away pieces” which are dug up to slap onto the supplemental portion of the package to provide more bang for your buck. Nothing new is revealed and there is no enriching experience gained from watching them. There is also a short featurette called the Elements of Terror which begins with a producer remarking “the things we did have NEVER been done before.” As I’ve explained, this is no ground breaking film, save for the fact that it’s actually good and its scares are effective. Creating a horror film that is truly creepy is a feat in itself nowadays, but no reason to sell us the cow when its already sitting in our living room. The featurette goes on to tell us how sound was amplified and worked into the film, shows little behind the scenes moments of special effects and stunt work and the crew singing the praises of their actors. It’s a fair enough making-of bit which flies by in no time flat.
If you missed this in theaters and you’d like to watch a movie that will get under your skin and scare the crap out of your already skittish friends, this is the Halloween treat for you. If you are a hardcore horror fan that yells at the screen and wants the red stuff to flow heavy and often, this would probably be a great bedtime story for your kids. In a time when the remake train continues its unrelenting trek across our global movie screens, I like to applaud someone telling a new story. The themes may be classic, but the horror, for once, is real.
4 out of 5
2 out of 5