Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Film #7: 'The Strangers'

"What you are about to see is inspired by true events... On the night of February 11, 2005, Kristen McKay and James Hoyt left a friend's wedding reception and returned home to the Hoyt family's summer home.
The brutal events that took place there are still not entirely known."

And thus begins the first 'home invasion' film of the month, 'The Strangers'.


First thing's first.
Exactly the same as 'found footage' movies aren't real, movies based on true events rarely are either.
Which is cool, movies are escapist fiction, but they can still make us laugh, cry, be scared - fine. I'm ok with a film not being based on true events, but if you're going to say that it's based on true events don't then give us the "we don't even know if THiS is what REALLY really happened, but this is SO real that we don't even want to lie to you by making up stuff. Honest!"
'Home Alone' didn't need a "The following film is based on real events" preamble to be a home invasion movie, so, films, just be scarier than 'Home Alone' to be considered a scary movie. 

Right, that's the first few frames of the film out of the way.

The rest:
Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman play a couple who go to a house, somewhere removed from society, and fall victim to a bunch of creeps wearing masks with unstated motives but presumably murderous intents.

Tyler and Speedman spend the first roughly 30 minutes mumbling and whispering their way through some breakup, or hookup, or generally unsympathetic personal problem, lulling the viewer into the fall sense of security that it's ok to turn the volume up on their tv so that the actors can actually be heard.

"Mmmmmhmhm hmmmmhmmh mhmmhmh" says Speedman, indicating to a bath filled with rose petals.
Tyler takes a mournful look upon her face, f**k this is awkward, her face says, because she speaks up "Mmmh mmhhmhmh mhmhmh mhhmhmhh", her head facing downwards to project what-little-of-her-voice-there-is towards the floor and away from the audio recording equipment traditionally used to makes movies.
Turning up the volume at this point clarifies very little, as they then proceed to not speak for a bit, some flashback appears to try to help us connect with these characters, blah blah blah, but mostly it's to pad out the running time of the film.

Anyway, someone knocks of the door looking for someone who doesn't live there, then leaves.
This is the first visit by one of the Strangers.

Who are these 'Strangers', you ask? This trio of omniscient ninjas use their powers to harass innocent victims, they know exactly where to be, when to hide, and can disappear in plain sight in the blink of an eye.
Capable of smashing the wind-screens of a car silently, they also know when a character has left a phone unattended somewhere even before he does. This whole night is a sequence of ridiculous convenience for them, while the couple fumble about, unsure of anything for 90-or-so minutes.
I like to think that this film was all a set-up for a life-lesson in self confidence by the all-knowing intruders. Granted, that's because there's no story here to speak of, so I had to think one up myself to stay interested.
Speak up, assert yourself, do something. These are all life lessons we need, and things which the characters here view as alien concepts, choosing instead to croak, cower and capitulate to the intruders.

The first time a character says something that registers over a dozen decibels it's when Liv Tyler screams - she screams and screams, making a mockery of any careful attempts to raise the volume to make sense of the characters mutterings.

When the man returns from a cigarette run he drags conversation back to a low mutter before discovering his smashed windscreen, missing phone, and - I presume stolen cigarettes, as these are never mentioned again.
Also stolen - I'm guessing - a first aid kit or bandages. At the first sign of a cut hand upon returning home, without having seen evidence of intruders to force a hurried bandage, the guy uses his tie to wrap the woman's hand, not even running the wound under a tap. So he pretty much sucks in even low-emergency situations. Obviously not a man of action.

After that it was just a matter of time before he shot a random man in the face, and stumbled on even ground towards a shed with a radio in it, before being caught.

Liv Tyler doesn't fare much better, creeping about the house, with the intruders popping up to be seen by the viewer, disappearing before Liv can be creeped out by them.
Eventually Liv makes it to the shed, only for her spluttering mumbles into the radio to be cut short by a baseball bat being used to smash that same radio, and then getting caught herself.

The intruders are all wearing mask, obviously misinterpreting the sentiment of "When you do things right, people won't be sure if you've done anything at all" by masking themselves so no one will be able to say who did what. Maybe not the best method to use for motivational speakers or life coaches.

I won't spoil the ending but suffice to say the "Get Confident, Stupid" method of enabling the couple doesn't work. Defeated, the intruders reveal their identities to the couple, who simply mutter and breathe heavily as a response.

But, rest assured, this movie does end.
It's not a bad film. It's also not worth strongly recommending. Or casually recommending. If home invasion movies are your thing, you could do worse, you could do better, but you could definitely do worse.

'The Strangers' is available on Netflix UK & Ireland, or you can buy the DVD. Numerous self-help books also exist in your local bookshop, which are recommended to build self-confidence before any of the methods used in this film are.

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