The Strangers Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review
Written by ZigZag
Blu-ray released by Scream Factory
Written and directed by Bryan Bertino
2008, 88 minutes, Unrated
Blu-ray released on March 6th, 2018
Liv Tyler as Kristen
Scott Speedman as James
Kip Weeks as Man in the Mask
Laura Margolis as Pin-Up Girl
Gemma Ward as Dollface
Glenn Howerton as Mike
James and Kristen are having a rough night. A failed marriage proposal reveals strains in their relationship and it appears they may be heading towards a break. They retreat to James’ family summer home only for things to get much, much worse. A knock at the door leads to the worst night of their lives as a trio of strangers begins their psychological and physical attack on the couple. What follows is a dark and twisted game of cat-and-mouse as our heroes try to get help and keep the assailants out of their house. Keep the bad guys out and stay alive. The plot really is just that simple, but what makes things work is the level of suspense that builds across the majority of the film’s running time.
With The Strangers, writer/ director Bryan Bertino (Mockingbird) makes a strong debut filled with tension as the villains demonstrate early on that they already have access to the house and are merely choosing to wait outside. Bertino tackles the story as a slow burn filled with quiet moments that set up the looming terror. Working closely with cinematographer Peter Sova (Diner), the story is told in a series of wide shots that manipulate images in the foreground and background of the frame. Audiences are frequently aware of the intruder’s presence while characters remain hopelessly unaware. Editor Kevin Greutert expertly keeps the pacing fluid and builds one strong sequence after another. As a director, Greutert would later revisit the material with his film Jackals (2017).
The script plays with viewers’ expectations as it places characters in increasingly dire positions as help remains elusive. This is a very simple, straightforward home-invasion picture that we have all seen before, but in Bertino’s hands the material is elevated to an impressive level. The nihilistic piece contains no social commentary and there is not a specific reason for the strangers’ actions other than random opportunity. The film is dead serious without moments of levity, which builds a melancholy vibe that slowly suffocates the audience with dread. The Strangers shares an uncomfortable similarity to the French thriller Ils (aka Them, 2006) about an isolated couple terrorized in their home overnight by hooded intruders.
Liv Tyler (Heavy) and Scott Speedman (Underworld) star as Kristen and James, the unfortunate couple caught at the center of this web of terror. Tyler appears in almost every scene and gives a stunningly vulnerable performance. The characters are resourceful and react believably to their increasingly hopeless situation. Thankfully, neither makes boneheaded decisions simply for the sake of advancing the story. Tyler and Speedman share terrific onscreen chemistry and audiences will be pulling for their eventual escape from this hell. The Strangers is a dark film that will stick with audiences long after it is over. Genre fans looking for gratuitous sex and violence will need to look elsewhere since this movie takes a more mature approach to the content. If you somehow missed this title, do yourself a favor and turn out the lights, curl up under a blanket – and don’t answer the door.
Video and Audio:
Presented in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the picture receives a strong transfer that really pops. The previous Blu-ray release was solid, but Scream Factory offers up a new 2K scan of the original film elements for improved results. Colors are well-saturated and black levels are inky and rich. There is a lot of shadow play in this film and the image quality is certainly up for the challenge.
Both a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track and a DTS-HD MA 2.0 mix are included and I tend to default to the expanded track for viewing. There is a lot to like here as sound effects rumble around the room, giving the surrounds a decent workout. Bass levels are impressive without being overwhelming and dialogue remains clean and free of distortion.
Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.
This all-new Collector’s Edition brings back all of the supplements from the previous Blu-ray release and adds some fresh content as well. This two-disc set presents the theatrical cut (85 minutes) and unrated cut (88 minutes) on their own discs with special features spread across both.
On Disc 1 we find The Elements of Terror (9 minutes), a collection of short behind-the-scenes videos that study various aspects of the production, featuring interviews with the cast and crew.
Strangers at the Door (10 minutes) is more of a character study from actors playing both heroes and villains.
A short selection of deleted scenes (5 minutes) reveals material that was trimmed for pacing.
The theatrical trailer and a collection of three TV spots reveal the picture’s ad campaign.
Bryan Bertino sits down for a thoughtful interview in Defining Moments: Writing and Directing The Strangers (30 minutes). He discusses the origins and early path to production before moving on to specific points of plotting and character.
All the Right Moves (12 minutes) introduces audiences to actor Kip Weeks, who talks about his time playing the Man in the Mask. He starts with the audition process before moving on to character motivation and the inspiration for how to play a silent killer.
Laura Margolis reveals how she approached the role of Pin-Up Girl in Brains and Brawn (14 minutes). She tells of her experience working on set with Liv Tyler and the crew and her character’s motivation and conflict.
In Deep Cuts (20 minutes), editor Kevin Greutert discusses how the way a picture is assembled can affect audience reactions and expectations. He talks about different versions of scenes and sequences and the importance of pacing.
A still gallery (49 images) presents a series of promotional photographs, character shots, behind-the-scenes images and an international look at the marketing poster campaign.