If the character Brick Tamland (of Anchorman fame) was watching this film he probably would be screaming "Loud Noises!" with every jump scene that appears in The Strangers (2008). The film stars Scott Speedman and Liv Tyler as a couple who must come to terms with their fading relationship. Right from the beginning we learn that the pair have passed the honeymoon stage of their relationship, and she's not quite ready to get married to him. To his surprise he was rather disheartened after she turned down his marriage proposal despite planning a romantic evening at his family's summer house to celebrate his intended night of engagement with her.
Now, taking a quick step back to the Brick Tamland reference I should point out that this film is an entire collage of jump scenes that are enhanced with a lot of loud sound effects. Chains are rattling, wind chimes are constantly blowing in the wind, an axe is pounded through the front door, and heavy breathing is heard with every appearance of the bad guy. The Strangers feels like it's nothing more than a film school student's thesis paper on the use of sound effects to engage the reaction of the audience members. I think I've lost certain hearing frequencies when the fire alarm scene happened early in the film. If you've ever stood underneath a ceiling fire alarm at home as it is buzzing very loudly when you accidentally burned the Christmas turkey then you would know how annoying the sound could be to your ears. Now imagine that sound be loudly amplified through a surround sound system with the booming power of 1.21 gigawatts. Great Scott!
The film is entertaining if you're a high school teenager looking for a good date movie. The last time that I was suckered into seeing a promising suspense and thriller film was when I went to go see White Noise (2005) on its opening night. Hated It! The Strangers was promising when I first started seeing the previews for it's release. It brought back childhood memories of when my grandparents had owned a few acres of land out in Chino, California and I would have a strong fear that a scary monster would show up in the middle of the night to scare the crap out of me when I was visiting Grandma and Grandpa. In reality there was never any monsters or scary people who would show up on their front doorstep, but I did have to sleep with my sister in the same bedroom as she would try to convince me that there is a bogeyman who was hiding in the closet. To a five year old kid the bogeyman is the scariest guy around if you happen to be watching Halloween episodes of sitcoms on the television as your sister pinches you in the arm when you're not looking. She had blamed it on the bogeyman for pinching until I started crying to grandpa. Don't worry about me. I've already been to the therapist for all of this. And I still love you, Big Sis!
After sitting through ninety minutes of loud sound effects and a screaming Liv Tyler it would only be fair to say that the film wasn't as fun and exciting as I was hoping it would be. She does a lot of screaming, and there are a lot of moments when I would wonder why the bad guys would appear and disappear at random times as if they were a ghost instead of the sadistic torturers that they were written to be. There are a few moments when one of three bad guys would follow the victim up to a certain distance before magically vanishing into thin air when the camera shot would change. It's humanly unfeasible to move across a great distance within a short amount of time as you are expected to believe when watching the film. Why would one of the bad guys trail a victim by a matter of a few mere feet through an open field without being noticed by the victim and without doing any harm to the person before the bad guy would magically disappear with the blink of an eye. I wouldn't be surprised if there were a few confused viewers who would wander why the camera would show a wide shot of the two people going through a field, followed by a close up of the victim scrambling around, and then back to another wide shot that shows just the victim. Uh-oh! Where did the bad guy go?
The film lacks any fulfillment upon the promise of its marketing campaign. There was only one moment that really made me jump out of my seat even though I was expecting it. It was the scene where she's hiding in the kitchen pantry and one of bad guys suddenly jumps right in front of the door and starts banging away through the wooden slats to get to the victim. I had a hunch it was going to happen, but it was so loud and sudden that it caught me off guard. The movie is all about the thrill of getting jumped out of your seat with surprising events.
There was no real meat to the film's story, and I was rather bummed because of that fact. Why did I even get my hopes up to begin with? My final rating for the film is generous as it is, but I thought it deserves some merit for making an attempt at keeping me in my seat for the entire film. I've decided to give the film a solid four points out of ten possible review points. It's a generous score, but I thought it deserves the rating for a the half-witted attempt at making a decent flick. I would highly recommend that you go watch Liv Tyler's other blockbuster film that came out only two weeks after the release of this one. Of course, I would be referring to The Incredible Hulk.