Lock your doors. Pretend you’re safe. Newcomer Bryan Bertino delivers a very solid, although not flawless, debut film.
Kristen McKay and James Hoyt arrive at James’ family’s summer home after a wedding reception and a not-as-planned wedding proposal. They arrive, take a bath, have some ice cream. Everything’s a bit tense. They begin caressing each other passionately when: KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK. Someone’s at the door asking for Tamara. No, she’s not here.
Are you sure?
What proceeds after this stray visitor is a vicious mind game, using the summer home as Kristen and James’ prison.
There’s no doubt that this will have “traditional” horror fans angry with its silence, and hardly any gore whatsoever (there is a bit of blood at the end, only staining clothes and on skin, nothing too grotesque). It focuses on these two characters, Kristen McKay and James Hoyt, two people who love each other but have just hit a hump on their relationship road, with Kristen not feeling ready for marriage just yet.
These aren’t traditional, well, let’s just use it for argument’s sake: slashers. These “strangers” don’t go around killing teenagers. They’re playing games with this couple, and it’s a frightening prospect, even if you don’t jump at any “scare” moments.
Bertino has handled the story with grace, making sure his film is not influenced by goregasm movies that plague cinemas and TV screens these days. As much fun as those are, this is a much more psychological horror film, if you call it horror at all.
I mentioned earlier that all is not well in terms of a debut film (as far as debut films go). Though the film isn’t horrible as a whole, there were some parts of the film I felt seemed too stretched out, just to pursue a 90-minute running time.
The Strangers are creepy people, and their motives are never explained in detail or why exactly they do what they do. It’s a concept that works quite well, if not 100%, by connecting the audience with the two main characters that makes the experience more frightening than someone jumping out of the shadows and stabbing the character with a knife.
The Strangers aren’t ones for hiding (unless it serves what they want to do). They make themselves very aware and wander around the house in a very eerie fashion, looking left to right, taking in everything, even sitting down for a rest.
The film, actually, doesn’t, in any way, feel like a recent film, in the way its shot and the story is handled. It feels, very much, like a film from the 70s, albeit a more classy and more sophisticated 70s film. Whilst the characters do use mobile phones in the film, I standby my observation purely because the way the film looks and the way the entire film plays out, so that scores two thumbs up from me.
Visually speaking, the Blu-Ray disc is clear, although it’s the first one I’ve noticed that has quite a few events of digital artefacts within the film. It doesn’t ruin the image, it’s not a horrible picture, as I said, it’s very clear and crisp image, but there was one aspect of blur in the film and a few aspects of bleeding of colours (well, bleeding of black, blurring the distinguishing lines between, say, a face and the very dark wall behind that face). It’s not necessarily a bad thing, as the film looks quite nice on the old LCD, and I wouldn’t hesitate to use this as a demo disc. The sound is even, despite the fact the dialogue is quite quiet and there are loud scare moments, but it is in fact a very even soundtrack and makes scare moments work well.
There are two features (excluding BD-Live) offered on the disc: unnecessary deleted scenes, and a very by-the-books featurette that you might see on Showtime or some movie channel in-between movies. Very short, not very sweet in a mundane presentation.
The film is a fantastic debut and I look forward to seeing more work from Bryan Bertino. I recommend this disc to anyone who may want a little something more out of their horror movies. Three-and-a-half skulls.