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"The Strangers"

Directed by Bryan Bertino.
Written by Bryan Bertino.
Starring Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman.
Release Year:  2008
Review Date:  5/30/08

Thank GOD for the freebie.

I took in the new thriller "The Strangers" last night, the day before it opened nationally; I thought the trailer was pretty good, but even in that trailer, it appeared that the plot was thin--two lovers (Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman) go to an isolated cabin to spend the night, and they are tormented by three mask-wearing wackos the whole damned time.

I was hoping for a twist, or maybe another movie-within-the-movie that didn't show itself in the  That really is the whole movie, and it only lasts about 80 minutes.  "The Strangers" is really only thick enough to fill up about half an hour, but filmmaker Bryan Bertino somehow makes this last much longer thanks to extended sequences of wait time.

What is here is not bad; a couple of the scares are legit, and Tyler really does have a great movie scream.  The wackos (played by Gemma Ward, Kip Weeks and Laura Margolis) are spooky thanks to their masks, but that does get old after a little while--that, and the sheer lack of action once the wackos show up.

It is what isn't here that kinda blows--no background on our criminals, no real background on our leads, a one-stop set and an ending that really sucks.  That the film is supposedly based on a true story should feel like it takes advantage of any real-world information, but that is also thrown out the window.  There is so much waiting in "The Strangers" that it doesn't really fall into "thriller" or "horror"'s just kind of a movie, with some interesting set pieces.

Don't see this movie; it's not Hard Vice bad, but there's nothing worth seeing here.  (This naturally means it will make like $20 million this weekend, which I'm sure is at least double its budget.)

Rating:  Rental


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09