The Strangers from 2006 is one of those kinds of movies that straddles the line of horror and suspense. I like to call these types of movies real-life horror, as they often evoke a sense of terror from possible real-life situations that could happen to anyone. The film is even branded as being inspired by true events, although according to the film’s director that phrase has been used fairly loosely.
The setup is simple yet effective: a young couple in the midst of a crossroads in their relationship are staying in a remote vacation house in a wooded town. The thought of being alone in a quiet, dark remote location can be quite frightening if you think about it. It only gets more freaky once a strange young woman knocks on your door at 3 AM.
What initially seems like a strange lost person winds up turning into something James and Kristen (Speedman and Tyler) never thought fathomable. It starts with Kristen being creeped out while left alone as James gets her cigarettes in town. Loud banging, moved objects and repetitive knocking at the door are only the beginning of the real scares.There is one scene with Kristen and one of the unknown assailants that is truly chilling to watch.
When James returns, things are turned up a notch. We soon realize there are three masked people tormenting the couple. They try just about everything to get to safety, but these apparently sick and deranged wanderers are also surprisingly organized and quick. With the phones and the car gone, their options look very slim.
What I love about this film is that it has genuine scares. Not cheap jump scares or over the top violence. While there are jump scares, and a bit of violence, its the psychological aspects that are what really make one’s spine tingle. The suspense and repeated thought that this could, and likely does, happen are what drive the film’s fright-factor.
This may be an enjoyable and highly effective horror flick, but its far from a feel good movie. There are several scenes that are sad and hard to watch. The simplistic storyline works because it plays off our realistic fears. The film is topped off with a very ambiguous and inconclusive ending that in retrospect makes it all the more disturbing. I love a film that can really give me a sense of fear while watching rather than simply entertain me, and The Strangers is one of the rare ones that has.