The introduction of violence in The Strangers follows a successful pantie tug on Liv Tyler by Scott Speedman. This succinctly sums up the boy's club philosophy inside America's new school of horror. Sexual desire and conquest are equal to sadism and carnal humiliation. The tag line for the movie, "Because You Were Home", is delivered in the film with monotoned indifference. This isn't frightening, just reinforcement of sadist horror's cruel intentions.
First time writer/director Bryan Bertino thinks he separates himself from the pack of Roths, Zombies, and Ajas, by inserting an indie-cool soundtrack and eliminating scenes of excessive gore, but defenders of this tripe continue to miss the point. Sado-horror didn't earn that namesake because of gore. Granted, Bertino doesn't let his camera linger on depravity like his cohorts do, but it's the bitter tone, hopeless outlook, and hatred of life that gives this sub-genre its reputation. Compile the varied works of gore hounds such as Takashi Miike, Edgar Wright, and Herschell Gordon Lewis, and not once will you encounter a film so totally devoid of ethical boundaries.
James (Speedman) and Kristen (Tyler... in The Strangers only bright spot) are slightly estranged after an awkward engagement dis via Kristen. They're staying at the country home of James' parents. A random wrap on the front door leads to a pounding on the windows, which leads to a smashed car, which commences in a full on siege and capture of the couple by three masked lunatics.
Bertino seems to be reaching for the tense cat and mouse scenario, but his film lacks the wistful dependency of the under siege couple in the far superior Vacancy. That film revived the chase game by giving the victims a grasp at heroism. The Strangers is simply a cat toying with a doomed and cornered mouse until it gets bored enough to finish it off.
But the ugliest moment takes place in one of the film's final scenes. After the murderers take turns at some tortuous gut puncturing, they drive off into the haze in their beat-up pick-up truck. Two preteen missionaries are walking their bikes up the road opposite. The truck stops, the blond one gets out, and asks the boys for one of their brochures, entitled "CHRISTIAN LIVING". Bertino frames and holds long enough to give the big reveal of who these "strangers" actually are: Bible thumpin country bumpkins. So tired, so lame, so boring. Grow up Bertino.