The Strangers 陌路狂殺
By James Donald, Special to The China Post
August 29, 2008, 12:00 am TWN
Bryan Bertino's debut has taken a chilling true story-rendition and chisled out a nail-biting tale of random terror and slaughter.
With the title alluding to the ubiquitous presence of these colder-than-life creeps, director and screenwriter Bertino presents viewers with a concept of fear close enough to home to make us fear for our own safety in light of the sheer strangeness of "The Strangers."
The film's skilled fingers play slowly on the back of viewers' necks as they get the feeling that the soon-to-be terrorized couple Kristen and James, played by Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman, are constantly being watched. As they drag out their feelings of hopeless confusion and disappointment, watchers come to realize James has just been turned down by Kristen after proposing to her at a friend's wedding reception earlier that night.
It's at this time, well before the appearance of a mysterious girl at their secluded holiday house that they begin to question if they really do know their other half.
After their confused doorstep encounter with the dazed and sedated blue-eyed blondie asking if "Tamara" is home," James turns her away before driving off in search of cigarettes.
"The Strangers" tortures out its introduction with exacting subtlety, a feature that, while at times fumbling in a string of repetitive anticlimaxes, maintains a heightened sense of danger and horror that disolve the need for gore or violence.
In fact, the film is remarkably non-violent, playing with emotions and maintaining sufficient lulls and developments between Kirsten and James to minimalize dialogue, blood and general violence.
In an interview after the film's release, Liv Tyler explains Bertino's original script was more of a "Manson-esque experience," pointing out Bertino's main inspiration for the film came from the novel "Helter Skelter," which details the 1969 Manson family murders.
When asked for comment, Bertino also delved into his own experience as a child of answering the door to a stranger, then discovering later that other empty houses had been burgled.