The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

COLUMN: ‘The Strangers’: a flawed film masked with empty scares

Ashanti Thomas
Staff profile for Drew Coffey.

I can assure you that after watching this film, you will never answer the door for a stranger ever again.  

The film is “The Strangers” made in 2008 and was written and directed by Bryan Bertino. The film stars Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman and tells the story of a couple who are randomly terrorized by a trio of murderers at an isolated countryside home.   

To start, the film starts with the couple awkwardly arriving at their home after a wedding, clearly distant and upset with each other. We see that James, played by Speedman, had proposed to Kristen, played by Tyler, but she turns him down.  

Suddenly, they hear a knock on the door from an eerie visitor. This kick starts a plethora of scary, heart-stopping thrills as the three strangers begin torturing the couple and trapping them around the house.  

In terms of performances, I think Tyler and Speedman do a great job expressing the urgent and isolated feeling of knowing they cannot do anything in the situation.

Tyler stands out as the designated scream queen of the film having many moments to show off her acting chops, a pun is sort of intended.  

Also, I think the atmosphere and music within the film really help give a psychological uneasiness to certain scenes. 

For example, there is one scene where Tyler’s character is hiding in a bedroom trying to remain quiet. This is already tense until one of the murderers begins playing back the note of a song on a record player.  

This constant, annoying repetition makes the audience beg for it to stop, adding to the abrasive and purposefully stimulating moment.  

The killers themselves are especially scary visually, with all of them wearing differently designed masks. The way the strangers are portrayed gives them a non-human feeling almost as if you’re watching an animal or alien act out rather than a human being.   

I think this is due to their patience and genuine enjoyment in messing with and toying with the couple which makes the murderers so terrifying.  

However, the scares of the film become rather tiresome pretty quickly. For most of the runtime, the main couple will see the killers only for them to supernaturally disappear upon one glance away from them.  

Now, I could forgive the film if this was more of a buildup situation, but it happens in the film’s tense climax which makes you feel like the story is not progressing at all. With this, the jump scares are downright predictable and are not shocking at all when they finally pop out.  

Certain elements of the plot also seem to be a disservice to the overall story.  

For example, James asks for his friend to come pick him up in the morning following his emotional rollercoaster of a night with Kristen before the wedding. However, the friend shows up at the house only hours after the killers begin their torturous fun.  

This would be suspenseful, only if we didn’t already see James and Kristen restlessly hiding with a shotgun pointed at the doorway waiting for any sign of movement. 

I’m sure we all know where this is going.  

My biggest problem with this is the emotional and shocking response from James after he, well, accidentally puts his find to permanent sleep. As a viewer, I feel no sympathy for the friend as I have never seen him before or better yet seen him with one of our main protagonists beforehand.  

Had they built their relationship up before the masked lunatics arrived, I would have felt some care or suspense for the outcome of this minor character.  

To my final point, the ending.  

It stands as one of the most iconic horror movie endings of all time. Not because of bloody buckets of blood, broken limbs, or even a jump scare.  

It’s simply the fear of random deviance.  

The couple wakes up in the morning tied up and understandably confused as to why the three figures have been pursuing them all night. So, they ask why.  

And, eerily, one of the killers then responds simply with, “Because you were home.” 

This quote not only signifies the spontaneous, murderous act but also taps into a fear that nobody is safe. While watching horror films, we like to tell ourselves, “Oh, this would never happen to me.”  

However, “The Strangers” hammers home that sometimes crimes can happen to anyone for no rhyme or reason, ending the film on a depressingly grim but horrifically effective note for the audience.  

My overall rating: 3/5 

Drew Coffey can be reached at [email protected] or 217-581-2812.

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About the Contributors
Drew Coffey
Drew Coffey, Reporter, Columnist
Drew is a senior television and video production major. He previously served as a reporter for The News.
Ashanti Thomas
Ashanti Thomas, Photographer
Ashanti Thomas is a senior digital media major. She previously served as photo editor and assistant photo editor at The News.

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