Kristen (Liv Tyler) and James (Scott Speedman) are a quiet, reserved couple. Late one night they ditch a wedding reception to drive to James’ family cabin. While there, they are terrorized throughout the night by one man and two women in creepy-cool masks who are intent to kill them.
And so begins another mediocre slasher flick. To the movie’s credit though, mediocre often garners some kind of cult following in horror.
Just before leaving the wedding reception, James asks Kristen to marry him. She turns him down. They drive out to the cabin where in advance, James prepared candles, champagne, and rose petals in the bathtub. While Kristen is in the other room James calls his friend Mike (Glenn Howerton) to pick him up.
This is the kind of badly thought out scene that’s indicative of the movie overall. If James has somewhere else he could go, why continue with his failed romantic plan and drive Kristen out there, creating a very awkward situation?
The backstory of the couple’s relationship may be important to the characters, but it carries no real weight because the script doesn’t care. It cares about the villains terrorizing the leads.
Despite locking the place down, the strangers move around the cabin without effort or detection. We get a lot of shots of them standing in the background. And many moments where the camera angle suddenly changes and a stranger is right behind one of the protagonists. The angle changes again and they’re gone. What’s the point of this? Kristen and James don’t even know they’re there. It’s to creep out the audience, sure, but these people don’t know they’re in a movie. And hitting that same bell over and over isn’t very effective.
I would like to know more about who the strangers are and what their motivations are. They show up and systematically terrorize Kristen and James for no real reason. “Because you were home” is the movie’s tagline and only explanation given. I suppose that’s the horror, that a random act of violence could happen to anyone. Random violence in real life can be confounding, but in the world of fiction, random just feels like lazy writing.
The movie is somewhat reminiscent of the “Keddie Murders,” which was a quadruple homicide taking place in a rural, Northern California cabin in 1981. The events involved two men who broke into the cabin and brutally killed four family members completely undetected. No one was ever caught, and no serial murders ever followed. It seemed completely random. The case became infamous because the idea of such an act of violence taking place completely randomly, and with no known motivation was enigmatic.
The phrase truth is stranger than fiction comes to mind. When it happens in real life we have to believe it. But when similar events happen in a movie like “The Strangers,” it feels too strange to be true. Here, random is a convenience for a movie about stalking and murder.
This is another recent horror movie that claims to be “inspired by true events.” Claiming the “Keddie Murders” as inspiration might be a good marketing ploy. But really the “true events” of the movie were writer/director Bryan Bertino recalling the case of a few break-ins in his childhood neighbourhood. To use the words of Tommy Lee Jones’ character in “No Country for Old Men,” “A true story? I couldn’t swear to every detail, but it’s certainly true that it is a story.”
** (out of 4)
David Jackson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.