22 May 2024

Movie review: The Strangers - Chapter 1

From At The Movies, 7:06 pm on 22 May 2024

The Strangers: Chapter 1 is the first part of an extended remake of a 2008 Liv Tyler horror film, directed by the notorious Renny Harlin.

Far from relying on the studio to fund any follow-ups to The Strangers on the strength of its performance at the box office, director Renny Harlin made all three films at the same time.

Harlin is some sort of phenomenon. Of the 40 or so movies he's made, a mere handful are what anyone would call any good - Die Hard 2, Nightmare On Elm Street 4, that sort of thing.

And yet he keeps on being employed, often on projects like this. Despite the title,The Strangers Chapter 1 isn't the first crack at this story.

The original Strangers was a pretty effective horror film, starring Liv Tyler. I don't remember if I even saw it, it was so generic.

But judging from the trailer, it featured pretty much everything Harlin offers in Chapter 1.

Young couple Maya and Ryan drive into town on their way to meet friends somewhere in Oregon.

As always with big city folk in the rural badlands, they find themselves eyed up suspiciously by the locals, who clearly don't cotton to strangers in these parts.

To the surprise of nobody who's ever seen a horror movie, their car's broken down. While they wait for it to be fixed, they'll have to stay the night in a lonely old shack way outside of town.

Miles away from anyone… A stranger? In the middle of the night?

For some reason, neither Ryan nor Maya seem particularly concerned, despite the moody lighting, the sinister background music and the fact they're stuck in the middle of nowhere without transport.

Have they never seen a scary movie? Didn't they think to ask why the only source of music is a turntable and a bunch of scratchy old LPs? What year is this?

And what's that dripping on the table? I thought you asked them to hold the ketchup…

Next thing you know there are sinister figures silently prowling around outside Casa Del Creepy, and occasionally letting themselves in so they can silently prowl around inside too.

There are three prowlers, helpfully named in the credits Scarecrow, Dollface and Pinup. Possibly their true identities will be revealed in Chapter Two or Three.

Given that the plot is basically two people being chased round a shack in the woods by three people in masks, the plot manages to stretch this skimpy material very efficiently.

Every time you think the bad guys have caught Maya and Ryan, they get away.

And every time you think Maya and Ryan have finally escaped, the bad guys catch up with them.

What makes the film so chilling is that there's no reason behind it. Why are they doing this, asks the victim couple in both versions of The Strangers?

But that doesn't explain how Renny Harlin managed to extend this material beyond that first chapter. He's made two more and he's bringing them to your out-of-town cinema shortly.

But just because he's bringing them doesn't mean we have to see them. I think I might take that second option. Next time I won't be here.

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