Review: Renny Harlin’s The Strangers: Chapter 1

I’d try to break into the cabin and grab Froy Gutierrez, too. Shit…

One of the most talked about films in cinemas right now is The Strangers: Chapter 1. Unfortunately, we’re talking about horror fans – who wear shitting on other people’s work as a badge of honor – so nothing good is being said right now. It’s the same old, same old rhetoric: “It’s the worst movie in the whole wide world. and everyone who likes it should jump off a cliff.” Mmhm, I get it. You didn’t like the movie thus no one else is allowed to have an opinion. But I’m from New Jersey and I’m going to tell you my opinion whether you like it or not, and the fact of the matter is The Strangers: Chapter 1 is not as bad as the keyboard warriors are making it out to be. Yes, it’s far from perfect. Yes, the lack of budget shows. And yes, I was entertained while seeing it in theaters today.

The Strangers: Chapter 1 leaves series creator Bryan Bertino behind and taps Renny Harlin as director and Alan R. Cohen & Alan Freedland as writers. The first of three new horror films also finds cinematography by Jose David Montero, editing by Michelle Harrison and more producers than I care to list in this review for sake of time and space. The Strangers: Chapter 1 stars Madelaine Petsch, Froy Gutierrez, Rachel Shenton, Gabriel Basso, Ema Horvath, Matúš Lajčák, Olivia Kreutzova and Letizia Fabbri. It was shot by Fifth Element Productions, Steam Media, Sherborne Media and LipSync before being distributed to cinemas by Lionsgate. The film follows another young, isolated couple who soon find themselves in a deadly cat and mouse game, hunted by three sadistic serial killers. If you’ve seen The Strangers and/or The Strangers: Prey at Night, then you already know how this one rolls out.

The Strangers: Chapter 1 has a somewhat confusing start by feeling more like a new Wrong Turn entry with a weird Twilight blue filter. If it makes any sense, it feels unrelated to the grittier atmosphere of its predecessors. As I mentioned above, the budget of The Strangers: Chapter 1 is significantly lower than other films in its genre and it shows. I don’t feel that the camera quality was necessarily up to par, although the audio, stunts, locations, etc were all splendid additions to the narrative. Oh my god, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how much I hated the numerous POV shots that just slap the viewer out of the palpable moments of suspense. I don’t know why they chose to film numerous scenes as POVs with odd angles instead of traditional shot lists. Oh god, I hated it so much. Other than these blunders, though, I don’t have any complaints about The Strangers: Chapter 1 from a production standpoint.

I am confused, however, if The Strangers: Chapter 1 is supposed to be a remake of The Strangers. It can’t be a sequel to The Strangers: Prey at Night because we know they all die at the end… unless we’re on board with some type of Halloween series logic with multiple timelines and shit. The creepy altar boys, “Is Tamra home?”, the hello signs, the record player, unscrewing the lightbulb, etc. While they’re great throwbacks to the first film in 2008, the plot itself almost felt like a copy and paste job except for the crawling under the house scene. I don’t mind a good remake, but just market it as such. Even the “let’s get married” (or not) from the original movie was paralleled here as was the low body count with one surprise, oh no that’s not the killer death. And the standard stupid people in horror film logic. You can’t forget all the bad decision-making skills on the part of our lead characters.

Final Score: 6.5 out of 10. It was enjoyable for a single viewing, but I don’t think I’d go back to it when the first two films were much better.

Michael DeFellipo

(Senior Editor)

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