Here is a movie that has been bounced around the schedule a number of times. It was originally slated for release in August of 2007, but ended up getting moved a few times before landing here, early in the summer blockbuster season. Generally, getting moved around like that is not a positive indicator of a movie's quality.
However, quality is not always the concern; sometimes it is just because the film is a little more difficult to market. For example in 2004 Johnny Depp starred in a film called The Libertine; it was not released until 2006, and it proved to be an excellent film, featuring another great Depp performance. As for The Strangers, I had hopes that it would be good, and I was not disappointed.
In this day of Saw, Hostel, and the rest of the so-called "torture porn" sub-genre of horror, The Strangers does not quite fit in. By comparison, The Strangers is quiet, sedate, and rather low on the blood flow. It is in this that the film was likely hard to market, what with the lack of torture and blood.
The Strangers reminds me of both Vacancy and Funny Games. It shares much of the mean streak of Vacancy, with a similar set-up, and its sense of randomness. Funny Games is a bit of a different matter. That slice of excellence was a commentary on the desensitization of audiences against violence, with writer/director Michael Haneke implicating the audience in what happens on the screen. In a way, The Strangers is the same film, only it revels in its subject matter rather than reviling the audience for gleaning enjoyment from such dark and violent subject matter.
As the movie begins, we are told that the story is based on actual events. We are even given people's names and the date that it happened. Of course, they cover themselves by saying that the specific events are not known. This, essentially, gives them free reign over what they choose to show us, since none of it can be called fact because none of it is known! Pretty slick, no? Still, I do not doubt that something along these lines has happened. The facts may never be known, but with The Strangers we can be manipulated into giving credence to our fears of just such a thing happening.
Scott Speedman and Liv Tyler star as James Hoyt and Kristen McKay, a young couple on their way to the Hoyt family summer home after attending a friend's wedding. There is an aura of sadness around the couple as they arrive home to find everything set up for a romantic evening with rose petals spread throughout the house. However, it is revealed that a failed proposal was the reason for the sadness. As the troubled couple talk prior to reconciling, a loud knock at the door shatters their peace and begins a long night of terror.