Blu Ray Title: The Strangers
Disk Release Date: October 21, 2008
Screen format: 1080P High Definition Widescreen 2.35:1
First theatrical release: 30 May, 2008
Previous releases on disk: Day and Date with Anamorphic DVD
Director: Bryan Bertino
Starring: Liv Tyler, Scott Speedman
Sound Formats: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Theatrical version adds French and Spanish DTS 5.1
Length: 1 hour 25 Minutes R version, 1 hour 31 minutes Unrated
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
There are very few movies that actually scare me anymore, but The Strangers surprised me by really creeping me out through the use of dramatic tension and chilling music. Actually this film is mostly a character study driven by its two leads, Kristen (Tyler) and James (Speedman). As a young couple, the two seem to be picture perfect for each other, but on leaving a friend’s wedding the two come to a serious interruption in their relationship, made rougher by their decision to continue on with their plans to spend the night together at a remote vacation home. As the night progresses we witness the two as they come to grips with the block that they face, which melts away as they are hounded by an unknown number of “Strangers” who first appear to be lost or confused travelers and later begin taunting them and finally, as we knew all along, commit their deadly assault on the two. The fact that the “Strangers” themselves aren’t actually acting so terrifying for the vast majority of the film only adds to the chills as we roll towards the inevitable and shocking end. Despite the fact that we knew the end results from the opening line of the film there are a few details that we pick up along the way that make these villains even more scary than their brutality alone would suggest, and for those clever enough to work through a few of the continuity issues that don’t initially make sense, the Strangers possess an even deeper level of creepiness!
Sound Quality: 4.5/5
The Strangers won’t awe you with a feature length reel of sound brilliance but it comes through amazingly well in the final act. When the Strangers actually begin to really barrage the couple the entire room becomes a playground for taunts, slaps, rattles, shrieks, creaks and groans and this really ratchets up the tension. However it is the presence of a simple classic record player that turns from a source of nostalgia to a source of terror that really left the most lasting impression on me.
Visual Quality: 3.5/5
Visually there really isn’t much to say here, the print is clean and the transfer is without any glaring edge enhancement or other similar defects, but this is a very dark film and one that doesn’t make a point of having grand vistas or intense burst of color or loads of on screen detail, it is subtle, sparse and unassuming, letting the actors emotional presence have all the spotlight.
Extra Features: 1.5/5
The only extras here are a small number of wisely deleted scenes and a single featurette titled “The elements of terror” which is not so much a ‘making of’ as an expose on the philosophy of what this film is all about and how and why it is different from other modern fright film. It’s very good but it left me wanting more!
Overall: 3.5/5 (not an average)
The highest praise I can give this movie is that it is the most ‘Hitchcockian’ film I have seen outside of the master’s own catalog. While it inevitably slips in a little gore and tosses in a few cheap scares, the whole point of the movie is that the Strangers attacked the couple simply because they were there and they answered the bell when it rang, and nothing more. That a group of people can be so savage is an awful reality and which I find resonating in terror. While the disk as a whole doesn’t merit one of our ‘recommended’ labels, for those who miss the ingenious crafting of suspense films that only AH could bring, I do heartily suggest that The Strangers is a rare example that shows that his legacy lives on and hope that more people check this one out.