Even in 2008, sleeper hits (low budget, low forecast films that become box office hits) still happen. Take writer-director Bryan Bertino’s taut thriller The Strangers which cost ten million dollars to make (a paltry amount in today’s market) and grossed five times that in the US alone. It’s a simple urban horror story likely to repeat such good business in every territory except France, where it’ll be instantly recognised as a unacknowledged rip-off of their 2006 domestic hit Ils (Them).
Without ruining the material in the same way as US remake of The Vanishing did, Bertino’s take is considerably more melodramatic. After a shrill narrator announces ‘What you are about to see is inspired by true events. According to the FBI, there are an estimated 1.4 million violent crimes in America each year.’ The Strangers then focuses on the turbulent romance between Kristen (Liv Tyler) and aspiring beau James (Scott Speedman) who retire to a country house to lick their wounds after she rejects his wedding proposal. On arrival, they find themselves teased, tormented and eventually tortured by three unknown assailants, whose identities are only revealed in the last few moments.
The Strangers deserves its cult status by offering straight, serious chills combined with an impressive directorial turn by Bertino who whips up an atmosphere of foreboding and growing unease.
General release from Fri 29 Aug.