Sunday, 31 May 2009

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - The Strangers

I must open this with a question directed at the readers of this review. Why, whenever directors think they have caught on to an innovative, new, original idea for the horror genre, does it end up being pulled off in the same manner as every other horror movie? This is one of those horror movies which ends thinking that it is smarter than it really is. Okay, lets get going, premise is that it is based on a true story, therefore making it all the more terrifying, Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman are two lovers who are in a bit of turmoil, due to Tyler turning down an engagement proposal from Speedman. Then, some bad things start happening. Yes, same old, same old. This is a nuts-and-bolts horror film, like REC, except it didn't attempt to be overly innovative like REC, but for what it is and what it is attempting to pull off, it does well. The leads, Tyler and Speedman, do not do anything with their roles, but do a decent job of pulling off a role with what they are given. The films best credit is no doubt in my opinion that of the director, Bryan Bertino. In his very first feature film, he makes a very good stab at pulling the shots of a horror film. In my opinion, he does genuinely seem to be conjuring the best out of what could easily have been a nothing film. Bertino shows great promise and flair in his debut, enough to garner interest in his next project. Also worthy of credit in this film is its cinematography. For a low budget, eight-million dollar horror flick, it certainly does look the part, and could easily be mistaken for one of its Hollywood counterparts, what with the quality of cinematography on display. A neat little device that I also thought was exploited well in various parts of the film, was a use of the music playing on the record player in the house. The lyrics of various songs which play throughout add some dramatic irony and tension to what could be an otherwise vacant and dull scene with some "scary" incidental music. Personally, I do not like incidental music in horror movies. The only person who has even been fully able to pull off incidental music in their horror movies is John Carpenter, with Halloween and Ennio Morricone on Carpenter's film The Thing. Anyway, what I am saying that I thought that the use of country folk-rock hits was quite unique to see in a movie of this type. Right okay, nitty gritty time for Dude. At least if a movie is absolutely godawful and woeful like Prom Night, you get some enjoyment at being creative in your slanderings, but with a movie like this stuck in the middle of Prom Night and Changeling, bad and good, it gets harder to review. Well, for starters, I thought that the film, like Prom Night, though to a lesser extent, pulled some scenes directly from other horror movies. For example, once again, a door is smashed down with blunt weapon, like Prom Night, except this time its an axe, making what I assume is the accidental ode to The Shining all the more obvious. At least it did it better than Prom Night. Also, the way they tried to establish that it was a true story with the opening narration was a direct nod to the opening of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in the worst way. For a movie that tags itself as doing something new with the genre, this opening voiceover, with deep, powerful voice let me in on the fact that this was just going to be same old, same old no matter what the film-makers intentions really were. Also, with regards to the film thinking it is more intelligent than it is, this couldn't be more obvious whenever the film begins to unfold. For example, I am sure I am not the only one who let out a godawful sigh of discontent (hint hint Kermode) whenever Scott Speedman left the house with the only gun whenever you know fine rightly what they should have done was wait in the house, because you know that Liv Tyler is too scared to stay in the house and will eventually follow. Yes, it comes to this point where it seems like the film-makers do not care or do not realise (hopefully the latter) how stupid and hypocritical something them seem, just so can attempt to bring out some big scares from the audience. This brings me to what is undoubtedly the biggest flaw of the film, so big that it destroys any foundations of the great film that it had the potential to be, the script. The script is such a poorly written piece of work, so bad that in my opinion that it deserves to be sent into deep space and forgotten forever. Wait, what if some super-intelligent beings intercept the script and guffaw at it, believing that we are of inferior intellect and decide to blow us up? It's that bad. There is a terrible lack of structure, like I mentioned, almost seeming like an excuse to bring out the next big scare. Also, the dialogue is terrible, making what could have been a believable situation completely unbelievable. When seeing a horror movie, the audience should be reminding themselves that it's only a movie, not having the movie remind them itself. That is not to say it is not a decent film. It certainly packs a strong punch in the scares that it has, with Tyler and Speedman doing the best they can with what their given, and some great direction from Bertino and very good cinematography. Personally, the way it tried to put a story behind the horror, reminded me of films such as The Exorcist and The Shining. It was never going to be that good, but unfortunately with it's nuts-and-bolts scare mentality and monstrous script, we can only imagine how good it could have been.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 5.5/10

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