Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Strangers

Somewhere in the darkest hallways of my very worst nightmares, there is a masked man standing just on the other side of my window. It has been one of my worst fears for as long as I can remember…I just don’t like masks…especially when the wearer of the mask has nothing but murder on his agenda. Not that I’ve ever come face to mask with a psycho killer…(!!!)…but it remains my greatest fear to this day.

My worst nightmare comes to life in The Strangers. Instead of one masked assailant, however, there are three. Yeah…that’s helpful.

I love a good scary movie, which I have said before, and this one is exactly what I love/hate/can’t get enough of. The movie tells the story of Kristen and James, a couple who, after attending a friend’s wedding reception, retreat to his family’s summer home which is, of course, out in the middle of nowhere. Through some flashbacks at the beginning of the movie, we learn that earlier in the night, James had proposed to Kristen, but that she told him she wasn’t ready. Understandably, there is some tension between them, and they aren’t even speaking at the beginning of the movie.

As the couple finally begins to talk again, and to “work things out,” there is a loud knock on the door. They are somewhat concerned at the late hour, (It’s 4:00 in the morning) but answer the door anyway. On the porch stands a young girl…maybe in her late teens or early twenties…whose face we cannot see because the porch light has gone out. She asks for “Tamara,” and James tells her that she’s got the wrong house. “See you later,” she says, with more than a little bit of foreshadowing. Kristen and James shake the experience off as just “weird,” and initially think nothing more of it. Shortly after this exchange, Kristen announces that she’s out of cigarettes, and James volunteers to go get her some. Once he’s gone, the “holy crap I’m going to have a freaking heart attack”s begin.

Kristen hasn’t been alone long before there is more knocking at the door. Instead of opening it, she listens as the girl’s voice returns, asking for Tamara. Kristen tells her to leave, but the knocking continues, getting more and more insistent and loud. She calls James to tell him to hurry home, and their call is cut off. Of course. She stands by the kitchen, smoking her last cigarette and tries to shake off the “willies” she’s gotten. I think she does a pretty good job of it, too, but only because she can’t see the freakiest masked man in the history of masked men standing quietly behind her, just watching from the hallway. Seriously…that guy…he’d probably scare my nightmare’s masked man to death. When she finally turns around, of course, he is gone. Eventually, though, she realizes that she is not alone. Her cell phone, which she’d plugged in at one point, is missing. A fire alarm that she’d thrown on the floor is now on a chair. There are other sounds around the house, and she begins to panic. She looks out the window to see masked figures in the distance…two girls in masks…and then pulls one curtain back to find the aforementioned scariest guy in the history of time standing RIGHT on the other side of the glass.

How she manages not to simply die of fright at that moment is beyond me.

Kristen does not, after all, die of fright…at any point in the movie. I don’t want to go into many more details, though, because if you WANT to see the movie, it will be better if you don’t know what is coming. I will say though, that James makes it home, and that things get worse. It’s pretty clear to me that the objective of the people in masks is to terrify Kristen and James completely…to freak them out beyond all freakingout-edness…and then to go from there. They do everything in their power to keep their victims from escaping…but this is only to prolong what they obviously see as being some sort of cat and mouse game. Kristen and James are confident that the trio is there to kill them…(though at one point it is explained that it’s nothing personal…when Kristen asks them for a motive, the answer she receives is “because you were home.”)…but in spite of gaining countless opportunities to do it, our would-be murderers continually abstain from murder.

Constant suspense like this is far scarier to me, in a movie, than actual blood and gore. There are plenty of times during the movie that I sat thinking that I probably would almost want them to get it over with…rather than to continually make me wonder what they were up to, and what they were going to do, and when they were going to do it. I, however, would have honestly died of a stroke upon seeing who the credits simply call “The Man in the Mask” for the first time, so I probably wouldn’t be their ideal victim for their kind of “fun.” Thank freaking goodness!