Wednesday, June 11, 2008

When Amway Sales Quotas are Down.

The Strangers

Release: 05.30.2008
Rated R

1 hour, 30 minutes

Matinee ($$$) <
>Second-Run Seats ($$)

We join Jimmy (Scott Speedman,
Underworld))and Kristen (Liv Tyler, Cookie's Fortune) as they are leaving a friend's wedding. For such a happy occasion, Jimmy and Kristen are far from happy with each other. As they return to Jimmy's folks' summer home, we learn through a series of exchanges and looks that the two care for each other deeply but they just aren't on the same page in their relationship. Their awkward silence is broken by a rap-rap-rapping on the door at 4am from a young girl asking for Tamara. Increasingly insistent knocks follow, and panic sets in as three people in masks begin tormenting the young couple.

IMDB credits the three strangers with names but I will refer to them as Papa Mask (Kip Weeks), Mama Mask (Laura Margolis) and Baby Mask (Gemma Ward). Papa Mask had the whole form-fitted stylish sack mask and the retro -pimp Napoleon Dynamite brown suit. Mama Mask had this kinda dowdy sixties-style attire, and you'll really only remember Baby Mask's long, unstyled blond hair. The Strangers isn't a fashion show, but the pace allows plenty of time to soak up the details. It's a good thing in part; the unhurried pacing helps build a terrific amount of first. As the film progresses, however, I became antsy. There was a time when it was time to nix the tension and make with the hacky-slashy. When I started paying more attention to the continuity issues and less to the fate of the couple, I knew this creeping, creepy tale had crapped out.

As for the actors, the Mask family did an admirable job of standing menacingly and sneaking up behind their prey. Speedman isn't given much to do except look perpetually morose, and that's before the baddies show. Ms. Tyler proves she can scream with the best of them but she looks rather goofy trying to skulk around on hands and knees. All in all, the story should have given both of them more to do to make audiences invest emotionally into their situation, but it didn't. Maybe the point of leaving them as blank slates was to create a shell audiences could imagine themselves in to heighten terror. I know I imagined putting some buckshot between the eyes of at least one of the Mask family.

Dirty Undies
I can't say I was especially enticed by either of the leads here. In fact, the first ominous knock of the evening comes as Speedman is sidling his jimmy up to Liv Tyler. I know my business time would not be interrupted by a strangers a-knocking at four friggin A.M.! Other than the language and smoking, this could have been a PG-13 affair. Most of the bloodshed is not inflicted onscreen. We're treated only to the gory aftermath.

The Money Shot
The Strangers works well on one single premise: tension is killer. It's the tension that had me amped up for carnage and mayhem as the Masks crept up behind their victims. It's the tension that had me wondering when the couple will snap and rage against their oppressors. Problem is, the added tension never snapped, only my patience did.

Papa Mask stalks at 4am. Oooh, the tension!

Papa Mask stalks again and with an axe...Oooh, the tension!

Mama Mask stalks....Oooh, the - Bah, you get the frellin' point!

Large Association of Movie Blogs


  1. I just can't bring myself to see it. Well, maybe if it's at the drive-in.

    I did get my good friend Pistola to review it for me, though. Kinda let me off the hook.

    Your reviews are always fantabulous, of course.

  2. Thanks for the praise and the reminder. I was saving Pistola's review for after I had posted mine. Just read it and sounds like there's some similar complaints about Strangers. Maybe you can wait for a double feature when the sequel is undoubtedly made. :-)