Ripped off from about 30 other alone-in-the-dark horror flicks, The Strangers has few scares, weak acting and a by-the-numbers script.
No matter how many times Hollywood screenwriters trot out this tired hackneyed plot in failed horror movies, there's always another just like it around the corner. Stop us if you've heard this one before: An attractive young couple Kristen (Liv Tyler) and James (Scott Speedman) return to his family's deserted, secluded vacation home after attending a friend's wedding reception. With roses petals strewn everywhere and a ring box in sight, this was to be a night of elation for the couple--but something goes wrong. At 4:00 am, just as things begin to pick up for them again romantically, there is a loud knock at the door. Of course, being mind-numbingly stupid movie characters, they open it to discover a strange young woman asking if someone named "Tamara" was home. After that, James has to conveniently leave for a while, which leaves Kristen alone. What ensues is about 40 minutes of near encounters with three masked weirdos, who clearly are not there to borrow a cup of sugar. When James returns, Kristen must convince him there are people trying to terrorize her. It doesn't take long before he gets the message, and the two must use all their wiles to fight for their lives.
Let's face it, this is not the type of script that's going to attract Meryl Streep. Liv Tyler is the nominal lead and altough her rather expressionless, weepy doll school of acting is an acquired taste, she does prove she can scream with the best of 'em when the knives finally come out. Unfortunately, much of The Strangers is ultimately reliant on the proposition that we care about this couple and their romantic woes. We don't. Chemistry is nil between Tyler and co-star Scott Speedman, whose bland performance doesn't help matters. There's really not much to say about the masked "strangers" (Gemma Ward, Kip Weeks and Laura Margolis), who all act like zombies and speak in monotones. Glenn Howerton as James' friend has some brief moments that threaten to liven up the proceedings, but he's in and out too quickly to make much of an impression.
First time screenwriter/director Bryan Bertino pulls out all the clichés associated with this type of film. You've seen it all done many times before in any number of pictures from Straw Dogs to the recent Funny Games and Vacancy. Bertino's gimmick seems to be letting the audience, not the characters, in on what's about to happen. So often we see the killers lurking in the shadows, unnoticed by our clueless leads. Then they vanish. This pattern is repeated over and over milking the "suspense," but not making much story sense. There are a couple of standard movie jolts here and there to mix things up but mostly Bertino proves himself to be a better tease than director. No Hitchcock, this dude! SPOILER ALERT: We have a policy about not giving away the ending, but it sucks. Just like the movie.
Hollywood.com rated this film 1 1/2 stars.