Plot: What’s it about?
James (Scott Speedman) and his girlfriend Kristen (Liv Tyler) have returned from a night out, but the evening didn’t unfold as planned. James proposed to his love, but Kristen turned him down and now the two have to sort out where their relationship will go from here. After their rough night, the couple heads back to James’ family’s summer home, where a celebration was to take place, but none does. As the night rolls on, a knock on the door breaks the mood of loneliness and disappointment. The visitor is looking for someone that doesn’t live there, which appears to be the end of the situation. But when James leaves to go for a drive, Kristen has more visitors, eerie ones with strange masks. The visitors begin to terrorize Kristen to no end, but can she fend them off until James arrives and if so, what will happen then?
I wasn’t too taken by the previews for this movie, but as I watched The Strangers, I was pulled in. Up until the arrival of the masked visitors, this was a tense, effective picture. The tension was built from believable elements, the awkwardness between the main characters, the isolated location, and the eerie atmosphere. The film gets even more intense once the strangers come in, but sadly, that doesn’t continue until the end. After a little of the cat & mouse chase approach, the tension begins to leak out and soon, we’re in a standard, run of the mill horror movie. The potential was there and the set up was effective, but when the movie needed to take things up a notch, it stalled instead. Even so, The Strangers isn’t a bad genre movie, but it could have been so much better. So if you’re a fan of the genre, this one is worth a rental.
Video: How’s it look?
Having owned the previous Blu-ray around the time it debuted back in 2008 (where does time go), but I can’t recall my thoughts on it. All I know is this new package delivers both cuts of the film (spread across 2 discs) and both look amazing. They’re both new masters from a 2K source, and immediately I noticed how clean and fresh it looked. The print is pristine (on both versions) and free of any noticeable grain or other flaws. This is a dark film (in tone and color), so having an idea of what to expect will also keep the expectations realistic. All things considered, Shout has given a fine new facelift to one of my favorite horror films. The transfers on both cuts are AVC encoded and feature a 2.35:1 ratio.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Also strong is the DTS HD track featured on both cuts of the film. We also get a 2.0 track if that’s your poison. Vocals are fine, though both of are lead characters are a bit soft spoken at first, but the audio is still clear. The film’s soundtrack does kick things up several times over the course of the film, especially after the strangers drop in. The rear channels really help add to the experience and help involve us. The bass kicks in a good bit. Just like the new transfers, this track (on whichever version you choose) serves the film in a satisfying manner.
Supplements: What are the extras?
We get both cuts of the film spread across 2 discs as well as unique extras on each disc.
- The Element of Terror – This feature is a new one and is more of an EPK style behind the scenes look. It features interviews and random B-roll footage. It’s worth a look, but isn’t the best feature included here.
- Deleted Scenes – We get two short clips here, but nothing substantial. These were included on the first Blu-Ray edition.
- Theatrical Trailer
- TV Spots
As we move to the Unrated cut on disc 2, we get more extras, and the better ones featured here.
- Defining Moments: Writing and Directing The Strangers – In what is arguably the best extra on the disc, Director Bryan Bertino gives us a thorough interview of how the film came to be, what he wanted to achieve with the film and various other tidbits. It leaves no stone unturned and is well worth watching.
- All the Right Moves: Kip Weeks on Playing the Man in the Mask – We hear from the actor who played one of the killers in the film. It’ll be interesting to some (it was for me) to see him since his face is never revealed in the film. Weeks talks about the audition process and what he wanted to bring to the role.
- Brains and Brawn: Laura Margolis on Playing pin-up girl – We hear from another one of the killers in the film. There’s some good info here, including how some stuff was changed after test screenings.
- Deep Cuts: Kevin Greutert on Editing The Strangers – This is another interesting feature, though it’s more technical than the others. The editor talks about previous films he’s edited and particular choices made as well as some changes made to the theatrical cut of the film. It’s an interesting watch.
- Still Gallery – Pretty self-explanatory, but we get stills from the film as well as posters, which are always cool to see.
The Bottom Line
I’ve said it and I’ll say it again: The Strangers scared the hell out of me. This is my type of horror film as it does the one thing that many horror films forget: to frighten us. Something about masked killers who are given no backstory or really no motivation at all, other than the victims simply being home. I remember the film was delayed several times prior to its theatrical debut, to which is actually performed relatively well. We’ve gotten a wonderful new Blu-Ray edition with each cut given a fresh new transfer as well as some great new extras. Time perfectly for the sequel which arrives in theaters the weekend of this writing. For fans of the film, picking this set up is a no-brainer. It’s still hard for me to sit and watch this film alone as it really gets under my skin. Highly recommended.