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The Strangers

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Bryan Bertino
Produced by Nathan Kahane
Doug Davison
Roy Lee
Written by Bryan Bertino
Starring Liv Tyler
Scott Speedman
Gemma Ward
Laura Margolis
Kip Weeks
Glenn Howerton
Music by tomandandy
Cinematography Peter Sova
Editing by Kevin Greutert
Distributed by Rogue Pictures
Release date(s) May 30, 2008 (US/CA)
August 29, 2008 (UK)
Running time Original cut
86 min.
Unrated cut
88 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $9 million
Gross revenue $82,344,798
Followed by The Strangers: Part II (2010/2011)

The Strangers is a 2008 American horror-thriller film written and directed by Bryan Bertino and starring Liv Tyler, Scott Speedman, Gemma Ward, Laura Margolis, Kip Weeks, and Glenn Howerton. The film revolves around a young couple who are terrorized by three masked assailants who break into the remote summer home in which they are staying and terminate all means of escape.

The Strangers was made on a budget of $9,000,000 and after two postponements, the film was eventually released on May 30, 2008 in North America. The film was marketed as being inspired by a "true story" and grossed $82.3 million at the box office worldwide. Critical reaction to the film was mixed, with both praise and dismissal from various reviewers.[1]

The supposed "true events" on which the film is based are in fact fictional; however, the director has stated that he drew inspiration for the film from the 1969 Manson murders and subsequent true crime novel Helter Skelter, as well as an event that occurred in his neighborhood when he was a child.[2] Theories began circulating around the internet in anticipation of the film's release and some also referenced the Keddie Murders of 1981 as a possible inspiration as well; this claim was never confirmed nor refuted by the filmmakers.



On the night of February 11, 2005, Kristen McKay and James Hoyt return to the remote vacation home owned by James' parents after attending a friend's wedding reception. Later, a young blonde woman knocks at the front door and asks if "Tamara" is home. She leaves after Kristin and James tell her that she has the wrong house. A short while later, James runs an errand, leaving Kristen in the house alone. The blonde woman returns, again asking for Tamara, and then begins banging loudly on the door when Kristen refuses to let her in. Kristen locks the doors and calls James on her cell phone, when the phone goes dead. She then plugs it into the wall near the fireplace to charge.

Loud knocks begin coming from all around the outside of the house. As Kristen reaches for her phone, she discovers it's gone. She then hears noise on the back patio. Armed with a kitchen knife, she walks over and pulls the curtain back on the sliding glass door to reveal a man in a mask standing there. Suddenly, the front door opens slightly. In between the crack of the door someone wearing a Dollface mask peeks her head through. Kristen closes the front door, locks it, and hides in the bedroom. Moments later, James suddenly walks into the bedroom, unaware of what is going on.

The couple search the house, finding no one, when they see Dollface standing in the back yard staring at the house. James goes outside to the car to retrieve his cell phone but it's gone. He tells Dollface to leave and turns to Kristen, when he turns back around, Dollface has vanished. James returns to the house, where he and Kristen find his phone sitting on the piano with its battery removed. James decides it is time to leave.

They go outside and attempt to drive away in the car, but a truck pulls up behind them. The Man in the Mask appears in front of the car, and a woman in a Pin Up Girl mask rear-ends the car. James and Kristen scramble back into the house where they find a shotgun and shells in the bedroom. They approach the front door as the Man in the Mask begins to break through the door with an axe. They block the door with the piano, then hide in a room down the hallway, armed with the gun toward the open doorway.

James' friend, Mike, whom he called earlier, arrives at the house, and has a rock thrown through his windshield. He approaches the house, and hears music playing loudly from inside. There, he walks down the hallway as The Man in the Mask appears behind him, holding up his axe. Mike steps in the doorway, and James fires the gun, shooting Mike in the head, after a few seconds James and Kristen realize they shot the wrong person. James heads to the barn outside to use a ham radio for help. He spots Pin Up Girl emerging from the barn, and attempts to shoot at her from down on the ground, but the Man in the Mask tackles him from behind. Kristen soon follows and as she is running she falls, twisting her ankle, and is unknowingly stalked through the front lawn by Pin Up Girl. She finally makes it to the barn and tries to radio for help.

Kristen crawls back to the house and once inside, she cannot find James, and the power goes out. The Man in the Mask then enters the front door, and Kristen hides in a pantry as he lurks around the living room. He leaves, and just as Kristen is about to slip out of the pantry, Dollface smashes in the pantry door. Kristen emerges from the pantry as The Man in the Mask reenters the house, holding James by his shirt collar. Kristen runs to the bedroom, but the window does not open. The lights come back on, and she creeps back toward the hallway. Upon reaching the doorway, The Man in the Mask rushes toward her, slamming her head into the back wall of the hallway. She falls to the floor and he drags her down the hall.

Now daylight, each of the strangers loom over Kristen and James, who are now tied to chairs in the living room. Each stranger removes their mask, but the camera does not show their faces. The three strangers then take turns stabbing James and Kristen, and then leave in their truck. As they drive down the road, they stop to talk to two boys delivering religious pamphlets. Dollface gets out of the truck and asks for one. She goes back to the truck with the pamphlet and the trio drive away. The two boys enter the house, finding a shotgun, knife, and the couple lying in a pool of blood. One of the boys goes to Kristen and grabs her arm slightly, which wakes her up, screaming in terror.



Early promotional poster for The Strangers.

Director Bryan Bertino's original script for the film was titled The Faces, but was later changed.[3][4] Filming for The Strangers began on October 10, 2006 and finished in early 2007 - the movie was filmed on location in Florence, South Carolina, and the house interior was constructed by a set crew.[5] During production, it was reported that star Liv Tyler came down with tonsillitis due to screaming so much.[4] The film's budget was around $9,000,000. The release of the film was postponed twice. The producers originally intended to release the film in the summer of 2007, but due to complications, the date was pushed back to November 2007. The release was then pushed back yet again with its final release date being May 30, 2008 in the United States. It was released later that summer in the UK on August 29, 2008.


According to production notes,[6] the film was inspired by true events from director Bryan Bertino's childhood: a stranger came to his home asking for someone who was not there, and Bertino later found out that empty homes in the neighborhood had been broken into that night.[7] In interviews, Bertino stated he was "very impressed" with some of the theories circulating on the Internet about the "true events" the movie is allegedly based on, but said his main inspiration was from the true crime book Helter Skelter; some have said that the film was also inspired by the Keddie Cabin Murders of 1981 that occurred in a small vacation community in California's Sierra Nevada Mountains.[8][2][9]

Marketing and promotion

A short teaser trailer for the film was released on the internet in August 2007, and can be found on YouTube.[10] It was not until March 2008 that a full-length trailer for the film was released, which can be found on Apple's Quicktime trailer gallery.[11] The trailer originally began running in theaters attached to Rogue Pictures' sci-fi film Doomsday in March 2008, and television advertisements began airing on networks in early-mid April 2008 to promote the film's May release. Two one-sheet posters for the film were released in August 2007, one showing the three masked Strangers,[12] and the other displaying a wounded Liv Tyler.[13] In April 2008, roughly two months before the film's official theatrical debut, the final, official one-sheet for the film was released.[14]

Theatrical release

After its release being postponed twice, The Strangers opened in the United States and Canada on May 30, 2008 and in its opening weekend the film grossed $20,997,985 in 2,467 theaters, ranking #3 at the box office and averaging $8,514 per theater.[15] As of June 23, 2008 the film has grossed $52,597,610 in the U.S. alone exceeding industry estimates,[16] and is considered a large box office success considering the production budget was a mere $9 million. The film opened in the United Kingdom later that summer on August 29, 2008, and as of September 21, 2008, had grossed £4,025,916.[17] The overall box office return was highly successful for a horror film earning an outstanding $82.3 million at the box office worldwide.

Critical reception

The film received mixed reviews from critics. It holds a rating of 44% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 110 reviews; a rating of 50% amongst Top Critics and a 57% rating based on the reviews from low critics.[1] Metacritic reported an average score of 47 out of 100, based on 27 reviews.[18] Among the positive reviews, Jeannette Catsoulis of The New York Times said The Strangers is "suspenseful," "highly effective," and "smartly maintain[s] its commitment to tingling creepiness over bludgeoning horror."[19] Michael Rechtshaffen of The Hollywood Reporter called the film a "creepily atmospheric psychological thriller with a death grip on the psychological aspect."[20] James Berardinelli of ReelViews said, "This is one of those rare horror movies that concentrates on suspense and terror rather than on gore and a high body count."[21] Scott Tobias of The Onion's A.V. Club said that "as an exercise in controlled mayhem, horror movies don't get much scarier."[22]

Among the moderate to negative reviews, Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times said, "The movie deserves more stars for its bottom-line craft, but all the craft in the world can't redeem its story."[23] Elizabeth Weitzman of the New York Daily News said that "Bertino does an excellent job building dread" and that the film is "more frightening than the graphic torture scenes in movies like Hostel and Saw," but criticized the "undeveloped protagonists" for being "colossally stupid and frustratingly passive."[24] Stephen Hunter of the Washington Post panned the film, calling it "a fraud from start to finish."[25] Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle, said the film "uses cinema to ends that are objectionable and vile," but admitted that "it does it well, with more than usual skill."[26]

Additional positive feedback for the film came from reviewer Berge Garabedian, who praised director Bertino for "building the tension nicely, with lots of silences, creepy voices, jump scares, use of songs and a sharp eye behind the camera, as well as plenty of steady-cam work to give it all more of a voyeuristic feel."[27] Empire Magazine remarked the film's retro-style, saying "Like much recent horror, from the homages of the Grindhouse gang through flat multiplex remakes of drive-in classics, The Strangers looks to the ’70s.", and ultimately branded the film as "an effective, scary emotional work-out."[28] Slant Magazine's Nick Schager listed The Strangers as the 9th best film of 2008[29], and the Seattle Film Examiner placed it in their category of "The Most Underappreciated Movies" of the year.[30] Also, the film was ranked #13 on "Bravo's 13 Scarier Movie Moments" television piece. [31]

Despite the fact that the film had acquired an average number of positive reviews, it was listed as the 30th Worst 2008 Film at Times Online.[32]

Home media

The Strangers was released on DVD and Blu-ray in the United States on October 21, 2008. Both the Blu-ray and DVD feature rated and unrated versions of the film, with the unrated edition running approximately two minutes longer. Bonus materials include two deleted scenes and a making-of featurette. The DVD was released in the UK on December 26, 2008. The film was available on Universal VOD (Video on Demand) from November 19, 2008 through March 31, 2009.[33]


The soundtrack of this film was released on the May 27, 2008. The album consists completely of 19 scores composed by score producer tomandandy. The soundtrack was distributed by Lakeshore Records.

The album was received with generally positive reviews by critics. "It’s a creepy score for what appears to be a movie that will make you jump as well as make sure that the doors are locked at night," writes reviewer Jeff Swindoll.[34] "This is an impressive score and adds a tremendous chill-factor to the film," says Zach Freeman, grading it with an A.


Rogue Pictures' producers confirmed to Variety that a sequel is in the works, tentatively titled The Strangers: Part II.[35][36] The film will be written by Bryan Bertino and directed by Laurent Briet.[37]

See also


  1. ^ a b "The Strangers Movie Reviews, Pictures - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2008-05-30. 
  2. ^ a b Rotten, Ryan (2007-08-01). "EXCL: Never Talk to Strangers". Retrieved 2008-08-20. 
  3. ^ "Trivia for The Strangers". Internet Movie Database (IMDb). Retrieved 29 December 2009. 
  4. ^ a b "Production Notes". The Strangers Official Website. Retrieved 27 May 2009. 
  5. ^ The Strangers. [DVD]. Universal Studios, Rogue Pictures. October 2008.  (The Elements of Terror: Making The Strangers)
  6. ^ Production Information. "The Strangers: Movie production notes". Retrieved 2008-08-20. 
  7. ^ Dawson, Angela (2008-05-28). "Liv in the moment". Entertainment News Wire. AZCentral. Retrieved 2008-07-01. 
  8. ^ Hawkins, Kristal. "Top Ten Haunted Places: Keddie Resort, Calif.". Library. Retrieved 29 December 2009. 
  9. ^ Rotten, Ryan (2008-05-26). "Interview: The Strangers' Bryan Bertino (Pt. 2)". Retrieved 2008-08-20. 
  10. ^ YouTube - The Strangers Teaser Trailer
  11. ^ Apple - Trailers - The Strangers
  12. ^ The Strangers Poster - Internet Movie Poster Awards Gallery
  13. ^ The Strangers Poster - Internet Movie Poster Awards Gallery
  14. ^ The Strangers Poster - Internet Movie Poster Awards Gallery
  15. ^ "The Strangers (2008) - Weekend Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  16. ^ The Strangers (2008)
  17. ^ IMDB - Box office/business
  18. ^ "Strangers, The (2008): Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2008-05-30. 
  19. ^ Catsoulis, Jeannette (30 May 2008). "The Strangers Review". New York Times. Retrieved 4 March 2010. 
  20. ^ Rechtshaffen, Michael (29 May 2008). "The Strangers, review". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  21. ^ Berardinelli, James (2008). "The Strangers". ReelViews. 
  22. ^ Tobias, Scott (29 May 2008). "The Strangers review". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 4 March 2010. 
  23. ^ Ebert, Roger (29 May 2008). "Roger Ebert reviews ::: The Strangers". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 3 March 2010. 
  24. ^ Weitzman, Elizabeth (29 May 2008). "Review: The Strangers". NY Daily News. Retrieved 3 March 2010. 
  25. ^ Hunter, Stephen (30 May 2008). "The Strangers". The Washington Post. Retrieved 3 March 2010. 
  26. ^ LaSalle, Mick (30 May 2008). "The Strangers review". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 20 December 2009. 
  27. ^ Joblo's movie review of The Strangers Berge Garabedian - November 19, 2008
  28. ^ Newman, Kim. "Empire Reviews - The Strangers". Empire Magazine. 
  29. ^ Schager, Nick. "2008: Year in Film". Slant Magazine. 
  30. ^ Seattle Film Examiner: Most Under-appreciated Movies of 2008 Jake Sikma - January 14, 2009
  31. ^ "Bravo's 13 Scarier Movie Moments". Horror Press. 17 October 2009. Retrieved 31 October 2009. 
  32. ^ "100 Worst Movies of 2008". Retrieved 2009-07-29. 
  33. ^ Universal - VOD: The Strangers - November 19, 2008.]
  34. ^
  35. ^ "Rogue Pictures confirms 'Strangers 2'". Digital Spy. 2008-08-28. Retrieved 2008-09-03. 
  36. ^
  37. ^

External links

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