The Strangers (NO STARS)
The Strangers’ awfulness is manifold. The thin, shock ’n’ schlock plot is based on true events (as a booming, Cops-like voice tells us at the beginning, reading aloud text that appears onscreen, as if the audience is illiterate) and concerns that oh-so-American of subjects, home invasion. Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman are the beautiful couple that arrives at the latter’s parents’ vacation home after an already-rocky night, during which Tyler rejects his proposal of marriage. They walk in at four in the morning; she takes a bath, her face tear-stained; he, brow furrowed, digs into some ice cream. Then there’s a pounding at the door and, well, that’s that.
The predictability of The Strangers’ set-up is matched by consistent stylistic banalities: a crackly, tinny old record player that gets turned on and off at key moments; ear-splitting sound cues that repeatedly dupe the audience into fearing the presence of something spooky; criminals with little-girl voices and wearing masks (which look as if they were created by Max Fleischer—indicating, in combination with the record player, that the film is for 14-year-olds, for whom early-20th-century pop culture is deeply strange and thus horrific).
What is most upsetting about The Strangers is that, after all its stupid gore and cheesy manipulations, it ends with no revelation, no lesson. The invaders are simply psychopaths out for a good time. Naturally, the film is being pitched as a cautionary tale—this could happen to you, so be careful—and one is compelled to offer another proviso: stay away from The Strangers as if your life depended on it.
The Strangers is now playing at AMC Yonge and Dundas 24 (10 Dundas St. E.), Queensway Theatre (1025 The Queensway) and Coliseum Scarborough (300 Borough Dr.).