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The Strangers (2008)

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I watched the extended, un-rated version, not the theatrical. And not from any intention. Somebody brought it over and it was free.

It starts with a sappy, pompous, pseudo-official voiceover with title cards “According to the FBI there are an estimated 1.4 million violent crimes in America each year.” But look how they are counted. If three people do a robbery, rape and assault, that’s nine crimes.

Suddenly I know this movie is crap. It might turn out to be good crap, like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but crap all the same. There’s an attempt to show the bright suburban streets in a David Lynch-ish way that parodies the very notion of sunshine. When does a thing stop being an homage and start being derivative? Just asking. Plus, it’s one of those jiggly camera movies. Enough, already, with the irritating jerky camera and the nausea-inducing wiggly camera

James and Kristen are having a relationship crisis, though earlier, at a friend’s wedding reception, they were a very happy couple. Then James goes and spoils it all by trying to give Kristen a ring. For some reason, the offer is not well received. It’s not clear what the big problem is. They arrive at the conveniently empty house of James’s father. James says, “You can have this room.” They’re not even planning to sleep together, and he calls a friend to pick him up in the morning.

The place is haunted by the ghost of what should have been a celebration. Earlier, anticipating her acceptance, James had sprinkled rose petals all over the house, and there’s champagne in a bucket. The rose petals look like blood spatter; they chug the champagne from the bottle while having A Talk. “I’m sorry, I’m just not ready yet,” Kristen says, though it’s still not clear why they can’t just revert to whatever state they’ve been in all along, instead of breaking up. Which is what they seem to be doing. After tears, there is sex which, at 4 in the morning, is just getting started when someone knocks at the door.

As in Funny Games, a much better film of the home-invasion category, there’s a terrible annoying repetitious noise going on during the time the woman is being terrorized and attacked. (Yeah, James goes out to get cigarettes for her.) Also, there is some very grueling physical activity for the beleaguered actress – in this case, instead of hopping around while all tied up, she has to crawl for long distances. There are other similarities too, but then the genre has limits. There are only so many ways to carry off a home invasion.

At first we’re not clear how many menacers there are. One for sure, a female. There’s a man wrapped up in a pillowcase or something – a genuine raghead. Is James one of the menacers? For quite some time, James and the attackers are never around at the same time. But wait – one of the attackers is a portly man in a suit. Could this possibly be James’s father?

Eventually Kristen asks, “Why are you doing this to us?”
“Because you were home.”

An answer to strike fear into the heart of any American. I’m guessing this film was underwritten by a burglar alarm company.

There is a tender moment between James and Kirsten, then the three intruders take their masks off, so you know they don’t intend to leave any witnesses behind. James is stabbed dead, Kristen is stabbed a lot. I think the inspiration here was the murders by the Manson gang at Sharon Tate’s house. There’s a surprise borrowed from Fatal Attraction.

The answer, by the way, is: bad crap.

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