It didn't appeal to all audience members, but "The Strangers" -- written and directed by Bryan Bertino -- was a box office success when it was released in 2008. The plot of "The Strangers" focuses on a couple being terrorized by masked villains while dealing with failing cellphones and cars that won't start. "The Strangers" is by no means a reinvention of the wheel, but it might appeal to fans of the genre looking for a few scares.
The film begins with Kristen McKay (Liv Tyler) and James Hoyt (Scott Speedman) returning to a summer vacation house after a wedding reception. As the evening progresses, they receive a knock on the door from a blond woman asking for Tamara. James and Kristen explain she has the wrong house, and James ventures off to buy cigarettes. While alone, Kristen is visited again by the woman -- now wearing a doll mask -- and a man in a mask. James returns home, but the strangers are gone. At first James doesn't believe Kirsten's story of the encounter, but he soon meets the masked strangers -- three in total -- himself. Over the course of the film, James and Kristen try their best to fend of the strangers, who relentlessly terrorize them.
Similar to the introduction in "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," voice-over narration begins "The Strangers," alerting the audience that the following film is "inspired by true events." This technique is used to elevate the horror within the film, creating a sense that the events can happen to anyone at anytime. However, "The Strangers" is not a factual account of any particular real-life event. The film's masked villains state that the only reason they attacked James and Kristen was because they were home. This is similar to another 1970s horror film, "Halloween," in which Michael Myers attacks Jamie Lee Curtis and her friends simply because he can. The villains in the film are mere mortals, unlike the supernatural creatures that inhabit other horror films.
"The Strangers" received mixed reviews from a variety of movie critics. Roger Ebert gave it one and a half stars, saying the film was a "waste of a perfectly good first act" with an ending that was "infuriating" and "nihilistic." The film has an overall rating of 6 out of 10 on IMDB. The film did reasonably well at the box office, bringing in $21 million during its opening weekend, more than double its estimated $10 million budget. Overall, the film grossed $52.6 million during its U.S. theatrical run.
The three masked villains in the movie -- Man in the Mask, Dollface and Pin-Up Mask -- never fully reveal their faces. Throughout the film, the most the audience receives are shadowed glimpses, brief profiles or close-ups of eyes. Towards the end of the film, the three villains remove their masks to murder James and Kristen, but only James dies. Although James and Kristen see their faces, the audience does not. In the original script -- penned by Bertino -- the audience was going to see all three faces, but this was altered once production began.
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