My roommate netflixed this movie last week, and we watched on a chilly night with all the lights off. I dunno if it was because of this setting that made me jump out of my seat every 5 minutes, or because I have an excessive fear of home invasion, or because the movie was actually well done in terms of suspense, because overall, I dunno if this movie was all that good. But, I can tell you one thing-never come at me by surprise wearing a mask.
This review might contain spoilers, though I really don’t think there’s a whole lot to “give away.” It was a pretty simple movie-a couple at an isolated vacation house experience a home invasion. If the point of this movie was to simply build suspense & show people being injured, etc, then, I guess it was a success. But it was the opening scenes that sort of threw me off. The main characters-Kristen and James (Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman aka that guy from Felicity) come back to their vacation home, after a wedding and a failed marriage proposal from James to Kristen. For me, this sort of implied that the story would go somewhere interesting. Though this section of the movie definitely drew me into it, I somehow thought that this set up implied that there would be more to the movie than there actually was.
Maybe I don’t “get it,” but I feel like this is the type of movie that Funny Games makes fun of-or, rather, scolds the audience for. It’s ironic that Funny Games does a The Strangers-type of movie better. Suspension and fear is definitely built well in The Strangers, and I really was scared by these strange home invaders in masks. The startling masks, the hint that they may not be entirely human, the lingering shots mostly of Tyler, and the ingenious use of Joanna Newsom’s music-all definitely contributed to me freaking out. The frustrating thing about this movie, though, is that there is really no connection between the invaders to the story in the beginning about the couple (am I missing something?), or to anything at all, really. “Why are you doing this to us?” Kristen asks. One of the masked invaders replies “Because you were home.” And that’s all the explanation we get. At least in Funny Games, we get some sort of explanation and reasoning as to why the invaders are as they are. In that movie, there is some sort of larger picture implied-one could even argue that it was too heavy-handed that way in the remake. But in The Strangers, the masked invaders are never even physically revealed to us, though they do reveal themselves to Kristen & James. One could argue that the anonymity of the invaders makes it scarier. Fine, that may be true, but there really is no reason for their presence-not in the story, and not for the story. There is no social commentary, allegory, subtext, etc., so it just seems as though it’s all just torture porn for the sake of torture porn.
So, yeah, this is definitely one to netflix on a night in with your roommate or significant other. It does the most basic job of a scary movie, and nothing more, really, for me. Though those damn masks may haunt me for the rest of my life-damn you Jacob’s Ladder, for initially instilling this irrational fear in me!