Movies From the Black Lagoon: The Strangers

Movies From the Black Lagoon
The Strangers - 2008, Rated R
By Tom Doty
Weekly Contributing Writer

A trio of mysterious figures terrorizes a young couple at an isolated farmhouse in this chiller that is short on words but long on nail biting suspense.
It all starts with James and Kristen spending the night at his family's country home after attending a wedding. You can cut the tension with a knife but that has nothing to do with being terrorized by three masked goons and everything to do with the fact that Kristen turned James down when he proposed earlier that evening. These two are so absorbed by their issues that they don't consider too odd that a stranger knocks on their door at 4AM. They send her off without opening the door (the smartest move they make) but then James goes off for cigarettes and leaves Kristen alone.
She is still pretty much in her won world so it takes a few pranks by the trio before she is aware that something is wrong. The things they do are clever and involve moving objects that she has put down. At one point one of them even strolls into the kitchen and watches her for a few moments before shrinking back into the house without ever being spotted.
The woman who rang the doorbell comes back and does it again which finally sets off Kristen's radar. She calls James and he rushes back. He does a wise thing by seeking out and finding the family shotgun. He even obtains ammunition and manages to load the firearm properly before succumbing to the trigger-happy instincts of a bored deer hunter half asleep in a blind. When he finally hears a noise he promptly blows off the head of his best friend who stopped by to help out.
Things only get worse now as the unholy three bust up James' car. He actually tries to escape on a flat tire and winds up piloting a crashbox after the three strangers ram him with their pick-up. Now the game is on but this pair is overmatched and soon find themselves at the mercy of three people who never of the word.
This is a simple story but it is so well told that they get away with it. Sure the victims do some stupid things but the strangers are the real attraction here. They are mostly silent and behave like a trio of Siamese cats that just love torturing their dinner. They also rock conservative clothes while sporting pale white masks that totally obscure their faces. You never learn much about them and that adds to the tension. There's a lot you want to know too. Who is in charge? Two appear to be women and one is a male so what is that dynamic? We never find out but the most chilling moment comes at the end when Kristen implores them for a reason and their only reply is simply, "You were home."
Writer/director Brian Bertinio deserves the credit for this exercise in terror but Hollywood doesn't appear to know what to do with him. He is currently wasting his time on a sequel that will either repeat the mayhem we've already seen or (worse yet) explain the origins of this mysterious trio and thus invalidate the first movies' main strength.
Best Line: "They want something, people don't just stand there staring at you. They want something."

Tom Doty occasionally emerges from the Lagoon to check his e-mail. If you'd like to get a message to him, write to: dotyfox@myactv.net.