Who’s afraid of someone breaking into their house to steal their possessions and murder their family? Just about everyone. We live in the age of personal security systems, cameras, watchdogs. Being able to feel safe in our homes is one of the most important things in our lives. So making a movie about a home invasion should be quite frightening with very little effort. But in Brian Bertino’s The Strangers (2008), seems to lose the scare factor.
This concept behind this movie is so scary that it should make people lock their doors at night, check their closet, and look under their beds to make sure the boogeyman isn’t there. The two main characters, James Hoyt (Scott Speedman) and Kristin McKay (Liv Tyler), are safe inside their summer home at 5 in the morning when there’s a knock at the door. It’s a teenage girl who asks for Amanda – someone who isn’t at the house. When they tell her this, the girl says, “Okay, I’ll see you later, then,” and walks away. Instead of being worried or a little weirded out, James and Kristin shrug their shoulders and do nothing. In fact, there are a lot of times they could have saved themselves, but fall into the trap of most horror movies: stupidity. For instance, when Kristin suspects someone was in the house, that she saw a man with a potato sack covering his face in the window, she calls James instead of the police. But even that could have been scary. I guess some people might react the same way, think they’re just scaring themselves when something a little fishy is going on.
But what really made The Strangers not scary isn’t the fact that less than 264 people are murdered in the United States unrelated to another felony, that 6% of those people are killed by a knife and those killed by slower, more tortuous means is barely above 0. No, the real reason this movie was not scary was because what was originally just a home invasion, which could happen at any time to any one, they took the premise outside the realm of reality by giving “the strangers” supernatural characteristics without making them full-on monsters. They seem to be around every corner. They can move quickly. They have the uncanny ability to see out of the small eyeholes in masks. And by taking that scary premise that is relatable to a general audience and giving it supernatural characteristics, it makes it seem like just another movie, nothing to be afraid of because it can never happen in real life.