Movies that are "inspired by true events" are usually major disappointments that lure in viewers by making them feel like what they are seeing actually happened - with that said, The Strangers falls right in line with such hoaxes. The intro narration sounds eerily similar to the opening voice of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), which ran a few chills down my spine and made me think I might actually be proven wrong about the film being a flop. But the movie moves at the pace of a 90 year old turtle on vicodin. In other words - really fucking slow.
It starts off with some potential, however, when a couple on the fritz end up alone in a house in the middle of the woods. There is a loud knock at the door from a mysterious woman in the middle of the night, right when the panties come off and the couple are about to get freaky (shame they couldn't get a few pumps in before they get murdered). There is one particular scene in which the lead female role of Kristen (played by Liv Tyler) is standing in the kitchen with a masked man in the background watching her. She feels his presence, but he slips back into the shadows before she spots him. The Strangers have entered the house, and it's all downhill from here.
The terror peaks about 20 minutes into the film but never achieves that same level of fear throughout. After awhile the knocks and sound effects no longer frighten, but are instead kind of boring. Most of the film you're waiting for something to happen, but it never actually does. The intent was obviously to build up suspense rather than use gore & horror to terrify, but a lack of character development makes the film just plain dull. Even when a friend arrives and almost saves the couple we hardly feel any real connection with his character, even when his face gets blown off by a shotgun. For example, Inside (2007, reviewed a few months back in The Big Toe Blog) does an outstanding job of leaving you on the edge of your seat while each of the potential rescuers are picked off by the killer, just as they are about to save our female lead. Part of the fun of a horror film is hoping the good guys will triumph, but in this case you want the main characters to be killed, because they were stupid enough to stay in the house in the first place.
However, I would always rather watch a weak horror film than any other genre, so I guess it wasn't a total loss. I will often times dissect a bad movie looking for a few good moments, and with The Strangers I only found one: when the killers break into the house and cause the turntable to skip, a sound effect that creates a spooky repetition and was the highlight of the trailer. The Strangers gets 2 toes and gives masked killers with potato sacks on their heads a bad rep. Even the kid with bag mask in The Orphanage was creepier.
If you still want to see this check it out on IMDB: