Thursday, March 1, 2018

THE STRANGERS (2008) (Scream Factory Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review)

THE STRANGERS (2008)
2-Disc Collector's Edition 

Label: Scream Factory
Region: A
Rating: R, Unrated
Duration: 86 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Surround 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p Widescreen (2:35:1)
Director: Bryan Bertino
Cast: Liv Tyler, Scott Speedman, Kip Weeks, Laura Margolis,  Gemma Ward, Glenn Howerton

Spooky home invasion film The Strangers (2008) opens with young couple James (Scott Speedman, Underworld) and Kristen (Liv Tyler, Lord of the Rings) driving out to a very out-of-the-way summer home that belongs to the family of James, they've been at a wedding reception for a friend earlier in the night where he proposed to Kristen, who turned him down, so the drive out to the vacation home afterward is an oddly and uncomfortably quiet one. Once at the cabin there's still a palpable tension between them, but that quietness is disturbed by an eerie knock at the door at 4 a.m., it's a young blonde woman looking for someone named Tamara. They tell her she has the wrong house and she leaves, but not before saying that she will see them later, and she's not lying either.

James leaves to go by some smokes and Kristen is left alone, she lights up the fireplace but the place begins to fill with smoke setting off the smoke detector, she manages to knock the squealing smoke detector off the ceiling, but then there's another knock at the door, this time it's someone wearing a creepy doll mask. Scared she closes the door and locks it, but then realizes that certain things have been moved around inside the house, the smoke detector she left on the floor has been moved to a chair and her cell phone she left charging has altogether disappeared. Frantic and unnerved she is out-of-her-mind with fright by the time James retirns, and while he doesn't seem to believe her at first he eventually comes around when he realizes there are three masked strangers prowling around outside, we have  Dollface (Gemma Ward), Man in the Mask (Kip Weeks) and Pin-up girl (Laura Margolis), three very quiet and creepy strangers who fully intend on harming the young couple for reasons unknown, surrounding the home and tainting the couple, it's a nerve-shredding encounter. 

This slice of home invasion is so very thick with dread and atmosphere, the rural and isolated setting is perfect, the lighting is creepy, looking at times like it's lit by only candles, and the three motiveless masked-killers lurking around are absolutely terrifying. The burlap sack masked killer was the most terrifying to me, bringing to mind Jason from Friday the Thirteenth Part 2 or Scarecrow from Batman. The violence in this one is not too shabby either, we get an unfortunate shotgun blast to the face and some vicious stabbings, but it's not a gore film, this is a deep tension film. What works for it is the unsettling creepiness of the masked characters, the hopeless situation the faltering lovers find themselves in, but working against it are some bad decisions made by our protagonists in the face of mortal danger. At one point they find a gun and some ammo, it's a great opportunity for survival but don't handle the situation with a great deal of thought in my opinion, they really fuck it up actually, but these are average people, not tactical strategists, so maybe that's more realistic. There's a nice homage to a slasher classic when the Man in a Mask emerges from a shadowy hallway behind Kristen, she doesn't even notice him, but the way he emerges and disappears reminded me of a similar scene from John Carpenter's Halloween, it gave me goosebumps. 

This is a film I dragged my non-horror loving wife to back when it hit the theaters originally, she was digging her nails into my arm the whole time, and was actually pretty stressed out by the ordeal and the unhappy ending of it all. The movie is a serious downer, and I think that settled on me even more this time around, it's a real gut-punch of a home invasion flick, though that seems to be par for the course with the home invasion movies, it does not usually end well for the good guys. The movie is well shot and stylish, with a great score and sound design that amps up the tension and melancholy of the movie. 

Audio/Video: The Strangers (2008) arrives on 2-disc Blu-ray from Scream Factory, both he theatrical and unrated versions coming from a new HD master of the 2K digital intermediate - the image looks great, this is a dark film and the shadow detail and black levels look solid through and through, the dark shadowy imagery really sets a proper tone for this one. Audio includes the option of both DTS-HD MA Stereo 2.0 and Surround 5.1, the sound design for this one is pretty awesome with some wonderful use of the surrounds, so crank up that surround and get ready to be creeped out and scared in equal measure, optional English subtitles are provided. 

Onto the extras we begin with disc one which features the theatrical cut of the film and the old extras from he original release, these include The Element of Terror and Strangers at the Door featurettes, deleted scenes, plus the theatrical trailer and TV spots. Disc two contains the unrated cut of the film plus a host of new extras adding up to about 81-minutes worth of new stuff. New stuff includes a 30-minute interview with writer/director Bryan Bertino, 11-min with Kip Weeks, 12-min with  actress Laura Margolis and 21-min with editor Kevin Greutert, plus a image gallery.  

The 2-disc Blu-ray release comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with a sleeve of reversible artwork, a cool new illustration by the CRP Group and one of the original movie posters on the reverse side.  The discs themselves features the new illustration on one and a scene from the film on the other, of Sack Head emerging from the darkness behind Kristen. This release also comes with a slipcover (o-card) featuring the new illustration. 

Special Features:
- NEW HD master of the theatrical cut taken from the 2K digital intermediate 
- The Element of Terror – interviews with the cast and crew (9 min) 
- Strangers at the Door – interviews with writer/director Bryan Bertino and the cast (`10 min) 
- Deleted Scenes (5 min) 
- TV Spots (2 min) 
- Theatrical Trailer (1 min) 
- NEW HD master of the unrated cut taken from the 2K digital intermediate 
- NEW Defining Moments – an interview with writer/director Bryan Bertino (30 min) 
- NEW All the Right Moves – an interview with actor Kip Weeks (Man in the Mask) (12 min) 
- NEW Brains and Brawn – an interview with actress Laura Margolis (Pin Up Girl) (14 min) 
- NEW Deep Cuts - an interview with editor Kevin Greutert (21 min) 
- Still Gallery (4 min) 

The Strangers (2008) holds up exquisitely even after repeat viewings, the atmosphere and dread generated by this eerie home invasion thriller is top notch, a classic of the sub genre in my opinion. The new 2-disc Blu-ray from Scream Factory looks and sounds great and the new extras are enjoyable, if you're wondering of you should double-dip all I can say is the new extras are very good, and if you don't already the previous Blu-ray this is a high recommend.


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