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The Strangers - horror DVD review
THE STRANGERS Unrated by the Motion Picture Association of America curledupdvd.com rating: 3 1/2 stars
Actors: Scott Speedman, Liv Tyler, Gemma Ward, Kip Weeks, Laura Margolis
Director: Bryan Bertino   Distributor: Universal
DVD release: 21 October 2008   Runtime: 85 minutes (1 disc)
Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, DVD-Video, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
DVD features: Audio tracks (Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround- English, Spanish, French), Subtitles (English SDH, Spanish, French), Deleted scenes, "The Elements of Terror"

Written and directed by Bryan Bertino, The Strangers stars Liv Tyler (The Incredible Hulk, Lord of the Rings) and Scott Speedman (Underworld: Evolution) as lovers Kristen McKay and James Hoyt. After leaving a wedding reception where Kristen rebuffed James proposal of marriage, the young couple drives out to the Hoyt family summer home (suffice to say it wouldn't be a horror movie if the home wasn't in a rural, isolated place). As the couple discuss their plans to split up, there is a knock on the door. James wonders aloud who could it be at 4 a.m. then answers. This starts the confrontation between the couple and a trio of masked lunatics who toy with them for most of the night.

Now, it would be really easy to shrug this off as just another torture-porn flick, or to compare it to the dreadful Funny Games. Though it is similar to that film, The Strangers shows much more promise in spots, though the good is diminished by the film collapsing under its own weight. On the positive side, the movie has sort of a throwback feel; not relying on shaky-cam, so you can actually sit and watch without getting motion sickness. What Bertino successfully does do is build up some moments of suspense, feelings of dread, and an overall creepy atmosphere. But a lot of that good gets negated by the lapses in logic, poor pacing, a lackluster ending, and the weak reason for the intruders doing what they do.

Like a short story puffed up to novel length, The Strangers has peaks and valleys. For some, the peaks won't be enough to pull them out of the valleys. For others, the good will outweigh the bad, and they will be sufficiently entertained. I can actually see both sides of the argument. The opening montage, the effective use of sound and music to create suspense and the cinematography are all strong points. On the other side, I would have liked something more from the villians other than that violence is arbitrary. But as a whole, The Strangers is a solid debut from first-timer Bertino.
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reviewed by Bobby Blades
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