THE STRANGERS (2007) Reviews and overview

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The Strangers is arriving soon in the UK as a Limited-Edition Blu-ray box set from Second Sight Films on 28th September 2020.

The release features a host of brand-new special features, including an extended cut, deleted scenes and new interviews with Liv Tyler and Laura Margolis, director Bryan Bertino and editor Kevin Greutert (the Saw franchise).

The set arrives complete with new artwork and poster, and a softcover book with new essays by Anton Bitel and Mary Beth McAndrews plus stills and behind-the-scenes images. Order via

Meanwhile, here is our previous coverage of this home invasion subgenre classic:

‘Because you were home.’
The Strangers is a 2007 American home invasion horror film about a young couple who are terrorised by three masked assailants.

Written and directed by Bryan Bertino (director of The Monster and Mockingbird; co-producer of He’s Out ThereStephanie and The Blackcoat’s Daughter). The movie stars Liv Tyler, Scott Speedman, Glenn Howerton, Gemma Ward, Laura Margolis and Kip Weeks.

A belated sequel, The Strangers: Prey at Night, was released in 2018.

Although it was ambiguously marketed as being “inspired by true events”, writer and director Bryan Bertino stated that the film was inspired by a series of break-ins that occurred in his neighbourhood as a child, as well as some incidents that occurred during the Manson killings.

I’ve always struggled with my feelings towards The Strangers. On the one hand, this is a horror film that actually scared me. Considering the vast number of horror films that I’ve watched (not to mention the number of home invasion films), that’s really saying something. Since a horror film is meant to frighten, The Strangers has to be considered a success. At the same time, The Strangers always leaves me so upset that, after watching, I inevitably swear to myself that I’ll never watch it again. And yet, whenever I see it playing on cable, I can’t help but watch at least a little of it. Even knowing what’s going to happen and how the film is going to end, The Strangers retains a hypnotic power.

The Strangers is a simple film. There’s a house out in the middle of nowhere. Having just left a wedding reception, James Hoyt (Scott Speedman) and his girlfriend, Kristen (Liv Tyler), arrive at the house. James and Kristen are not having a good night. James asked Kristen to marry him. Kristen turned him down. That’ll make any night awkward, regardless of how nice the house is.

James and Kristen settle into the house for the night, both of them eager to get away from each other in the morning. Suddenly, there’s a knock on the door. A young woman (Gemma Ward) is looking for someone named Tamara.  When told that there is no Tamara in the house, she replies, “See you later.”

The girl’s not lying. Later, while James is out sulking, Kristen realises that she’s not alone. There are three strangers, all wearing masks. They’re watching. They’re waiting…

The rest of the film details, in excruciating detail, the rest of the night. What makes the film particularly disturbing is that neither James nor Kristen are dumb but they’re still powerless against those three strangers. Just as the strangers hide their faces, they also hide their motive. The closest that Kristen and James get to an explanation for why they’re being targeted is that “You were home.” To the strangers, it’s a sick game. They’re like three cats, playing with a cricket. They’re not going to back off until they’ve removed at least one leg.

James and Kristen, I should add, are not the only potential victims in The Strangers. There’s also Mike, who is James’s best friend and who is supposed to pick him up in the morning. Of everyone in the movie, I always feel the worst for Mike. For one thing, he was just trying to do his friend a favour. For another, he’s played by Glenn Howerton. Has It’s Sunny In Philadelphia done a The Gang Plans A Home Invasion episode?.

The Strangers is an absolutely terrifying film, specifically because it’s so easy to relate to Kristen and James. They remind the viewers of their friends. They remind the viewers of themselves. Watching them, we’re reminded of every time that we’ve heard a strange sound in the night and tried to tell ourselves that it was nothing. We live in an increasingly unstable world and The Strangers perfectly captures the feeling of living under the shadow of death. It’s a bit like Michael Haneke’s Funny Games, without any “it’s just a movie” moments to provide us with any sense of security. The film starts with a message telling us that we’re about to see a true story. Even though we know that might just be hyperbole, we also know that what we’re seeing could very well have happened. In fact, it could happen to us as soon as the movie ends.

That’s the hypnotic dread of The Strangers.

Lisa Marie Bowman, guest reviewer via Through the Shattered Lens

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Other reviews:

“This is undeniably effective suspense-horror, and Bertino stages quiet chills and short, sharp shocks with a technical expertise which suggests he has a future if he ever grows a heart … This shows only a relentless commitment to being no fun at all, which is vaguely admirable but ultimately self-defeating.” Kim Newman, Empire

“The performances are excellent across the board with Tyler a particular stand out, completely sucking you into empathising with her character from the off, while Speedman’s suitor could have been annoying or dumb but feels like a normal heart-broken guy doing every and anything he can to protect the woman he still loves. Bertino’s direction is unfussy and makes killer use of the house…” Live for Films

” …director Bryan Bertino takes his sweet time to get to the mayhem, teasing out the conflict between the victims and the looming threat of their mysterious attackers. The quietest moments are the most effective, built on the eerie discord of composing duo tomandandy‘s score and compositions that tuck the bad guys in the corners of the frame, swaddled in shadow.” Rolling Stone

There have been great movies about home invasion, like In Cold Blood, that made more of it than gruesome “events.” The Strangers is a well-shot film (the cinematographer is the veteran Peter Sowa). It does what it sets out to do. I’m not sure that it earns the right to do it. Bertino shows the instincts of a good director; I hope he gets worthier material.”

“Of course, let’s give writer-director Bryan Bertino credit. He knows how to frame a shot to make characters seem vulnerable. He knows how to use sound, particularly repeated sounds (ominous knocking, a skipped record, etc.), to get under the viewer’s skin. Now for his next trick, he just needs to turn his talents toward something that isn’t repulsive.” San Francisco Chronicle

MOVIES and MANIA rating:

Cast and characters:
Liv Tyler … Kristen McKay
Scott Speedman … James Hoyt
Gemma Ward … Dollface
Kip Weeks … Man in the Mask
Glenn Howerton … Mike
Laura Margolis … Pin-up girl
Alex Fisher and Peter Clayton-Luce … Mormon boys

Filming locations:
Ten miles outside of Florence, South Carolina. Principal filming began on October 10, 2006, and finished in early 2007.

Technical details:
88 minutes (unrated)
Aspect ratio: 2.35: 1
Audio: Dolby Digital | DTS


After two postponements, The Strangers was released theatrically on May 30, 2008, in North America.

Box office:
Budget: $9 million (estimated)
Gross USA: $52,597,610
Worldwide Gross: $82,410,456

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