Thursday, July 10, 2008

Movie Review - The Strangers

Most of you already know I have a strange obsession with horror movies. Really, actually anything deeply grotesque and disturbing.

The movie thing started years ago when as a child I caught a glimmer of The Exorcist playing on my parents' TV in their bedroom. It was the scene where Regan started speaking in tongues, this deep, demonic voice whistling out of my parents' open door. Naturally, I crept closer, watching the black and white shadowy light from the TV flicker violently on the bedroom wall. That alone pulled me in right from the start. I didn't even have to see a single scene of the movie, I was hooked on that compelling flicker.

Maybe it was the juxtoposition between such a frightening moment coming from a place that always felt safe to me, the comfort of my parents' flowery wallpapered bedroom. Whatever it was, since then, I haven't been able to shake it.

Basically after that time, my affinity for all things macabre has grown into a full fledged obsession. You can read about my picks for scariest movies of all time here.

So, while all the pretty girls were waiting in line to see the Sex and the City movie the night it came out, I snuck through the hoards with my tickets for The Strangers.

Here's what I liked about The Strangers.

It stuck to what works in classic horror movies. It stayed true to the elements of suspense: great music (best if used correctly, which it was [for another example of a perfect use of music, see the scene in House of 1,000 Corpses where Otis shoots the cop in the head in the backyard. I never knew country music could be so insanely creepy. Or the classic moment in Resevoir Dogs (not traditionally labeled a horror movie) where Mr. Blonde cuts of Marvin Nash's ear. You get the picture.]

I digress.

Another key element of a classic horror flick is suspense. If The Strangers did one thing perfectly, it was keep you in suspense. From the moment the guy in the suit with the potato sack over his face head appeared at the back door, my heart was racing. That, coupled with the fact that you never actually see the villains' faces, is just completely terrifying.

The film plays into what is definitely one of my biggest, and what I believe to be a lot of people's biggest fears. What if one night I am sleeping and my boyfriend wakes me up and says, "Megan, I think there is someone in the living room." So this movie struck a chord of absolute dread with me. What if you went into the living room and there really was somone there?

Chills. Up and down my neck.

The plot was simple, which any good horror movie writer knows is key. A group of people show up in the middle of the night and proceed to horrify and torture a girl and her boyfriend until the light of morning. Their experience will eventually come to a gruesome end that everyone knows is coming, but just doesn't know when.

It's a setting that allows you to suspend your disbelief enough to think that this mayhem could actually happen to someone as ordinary as you. That's the scariest part about the movie. It makes you come home and pull that front door a little tighter, secure those window locks a little more. The overwhelming fear that one day you will look out your window and on your front lawn will be a girl in a clown mask in the middle of the night. Ummmm fuck that, people! I'm locking those doors!

The thing is, fear only exists and breeds as we name more and more things to be afraid of. A person that has never seen a spider before, is probably not going to be frightened of it. But because generations and generations of men and women have screamed and squirmed their way away from spiders, fear has become inherent.

If you can disengage between the object and the fear, I think the scary can be envigorating. A controlled thrill. That's why these movies captivate me. Fear is the most recognized and powerful emotion in human response. Over love. Over joy. An emotion with such a negative stigma ends up being at the helm of everything; imagine that.

So when they're done right, these movies can be downright emotional masterpieces.

The Strangers was awesome. Not too much blood and gore, but enough to satiate those Freddys and Jasons and Michael Myers lovers. It was a steady and restrained suspense throughout the movie until the end. Which I felt was also one of the strongest points in the movie.

The killers wait until daylight to murder their victims. Bound and defeated, the victims watch with terror as the killers finally de-mask. During that moment, my stomach turned and tightened. You know this is not going to end happily with the girl and boyfriend skipping away from the house holding hands.

The last scene was chilling. Done in complete silence. The reality of the morning light often offers escape to many victims in horror movies. Without the lurking dark of night, we tend to feel a sense of safety. But that idea is completely false. This film shattered any sense of security and comfort in your own home. It was especially devastating to watch, with the way the writers and director had developed the characters to that point.


Every exceptional horror movie leaves the door open for a sequel. And that is all I will say.

Go see it!


Peter said...

I want to see this (Liv Tyler!) so I am not going to read the review. You don't seem like the type to spoil. But, I can't take that chance, Megan. I can't. I won't.


I am so in love with my own thoughts that I am leaving a comment anyway.

Hellafied said...

Peter: I didn't spoil it, I promise. I just teased a little. :)

S said...

Megan, I love reading your blog, and I usually agree with your music & movie preferences, but not this one.

I saw this with my BF--a huge horror genre fan--the weekend it opened. We both hated it. A half hour in, he turned to me and said "oh, just kill 'em already!"

Well, I guess that's what makes horse racing. . . .

Hellafied said...

s: You know, a lot of people I talked to said the same thing, that it was kind of a slow build up, but for me that was the best part. Plus, there is something to be said for a movie where the audience is actually rooting for the villains to kill people!

I'd love to get your BF's recommendations on some movies!

Michael Tragic said...

I agree. I loved it. I saw it twice. The slow build up is classic. Show the conflict between the couple...get people to take the end.. they are together... sounds like "Vacancy" same thing...the couple argues like crazy...but the tragic events bring them together...

Colleen Snell said...

Scooby Doo used to scare me. I'm a wimp!

JHC said...

You need to see Them. It's French, so yeah, there are subtitles, but there's little talking and a lot of screaming. It's very similar to this film.

You have to watch it in the dark with the sound turned way up. The atmospheric noises alone are worth it.

Hutch's House said...

Might I suggest Prince of Darkness as a movie to check out?