A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Strangers is a grisly, tense, very scary horror movie with plenty of blood spilled. Characters are stabbed, beaten, and shot, often very graphically. That said, unlike many others in the horror genre, the film doesn't sexualize its terror, and the characters in peril aren't just sacrificial lambs -- the filmmakers attempt to make you care about them. Some teens who aren't necessarily gung-ho horror fans may be drawn in by stars Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman -- but even though the film is well made and, by the standards of the genre, "tasteful," there's still plenty of shocking violence and high-strung tension (not to mention some swearing, drinking, and smoking), making it better suited for older viewers with strong nerves. One of the scariest aspects to the movie is that the home invaders don't seem to have any motive: No backstory is given, and they display a coldblooded lack of emotion, empathy, or concern. "F--k" is said frequently.
What's the story?
In THE STRANGERS, James (Scott Speedman) and Kristen (Liv Tyler) make their way to his family's home in the country after a wedding reception. They're clearly upset, and viewers see in flashback how, earlier that night, they had a mild falling out that they're now trying to work through. But then a stranger repeatedly comes to the door in the wee hours of the morning asking for someone who isn't there. And as their isolated home comes under siege from three masked strangers with evil intentions, James and Kristen realize that they've got bigger problems.
Is it any good?
When the scary stuff starts, it's very scary stuff -- plenty of jumps and jolts and moments when you'll be shouting at the screen. Watching The Strangers, it's clear that writer-director Bryan Bertino has studied the classic horror directors: There are hints of everyone from Alfred Hitchcock to Wes Craven in his camera work, composition, and editing. He also takes the time to establish his lead characters as people we're interested in, not just disposable victims; Speedman and Tyler both make their roles (no pun intended) come alive.
Much of The Strangers revolves around the threat of random terror coming to (and through) your front door; James and Kristen haven't done anything to deserve their torment at the hands of the three intruders aside from being home -- which is fairly terrifying to contemplate. The Strangers is violent, visceral stuff, to be sure, but it's also well made and more thoughtful than it could have been. Weighed against the gory, boring Hostel and Saw films, The Strangers feels like a chilling breath of fresh air. Sure, the film includes an all-too-standard setup for a sequel, but at the same time, while it's happening, The Strangers works as a well-made example of a film that delivers the squirmy, spooky, artificially induced anxiety we hope to feel when we go to a horror film.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what makes a "good" horror film and what makes a "bad" one. Why do we seek out the artificially induced sense of apprehension and stress that horror films offer us? Why is it so much fun to be scared at the movies? Do you think The Strangers is scary? Why or why not?
Many horror films depict random grisly crimes -- do you think these movies reflect the reality of violent crime, or do they create (and possibly perpetuate) myths and misperceptions?
This movie "begins near the end." In other words, the movie starts by showing scenes of climactic terror and horrific imagery before going to the beginning of the action in order to see how the characters ended up where they did. What are some other examples of movies that follow this structure?
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