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The Strangers Chapter 1 Review: Is A Poorly Written Slasher

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Bryan Bertino’s 2008 film The Strangers, has created an indelible mark on the horror audience. The first installment in the film series, starring Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman, introduces us to three assailants who, wielding weapons and putting on creepy masks, harass people who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. And although The Strangers: Prey at Night, which premiered in 2018, has a rather low Tomatometer score, it’s still superior to Bertino’s newest film, directed by Renny Harlin. In an attempt to revive the franchise, the makers give us a story that’s just a tad too similar to the 2008 film to be more than a tedious, confusing slasher. 

The Strangers Chapter 1 Review (2024)

The Strangers. Photo Credit: John Armour

The Strangers: Chapter 1 follows a young couple, Maya (Madelaine Petsch) and Ryan (Froy Gutierrez), whose car breaks down in a small rural town in Oregon. The pair is forced to spend the night in a rental cabin, but the tranquility doesn’t last long. Maya and Ryan soon discover that three masked killers are targeting them. In an unfamiliar town with no car, the couple must fight back and figure out how to survive the onslaught.

How many of you would take a shower knowing that someone is surrounding the house, stalking you, and knocking on the door asking to see Tamara?

“Is Tamara there?” is one of the film series’ most threatening and memorable lines. The line makes a comeback in Chapter 1, along with other similar components from the first film, for example, a young couple, a dark, foggy night, or an isolated house, among others. While it’s better, the 2024 horror reminded me of a scene-by-scene recreation of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, starring Vince Vaughn. In short, there is just no justification for the film to exist or for it to be continued in Chapter 2

Still, there are a few positive aspects, such as direction and acting. Harlin does his best, taking close shots of the characters’ facial expressions while changing angles and revealing one of the perpetrators lurking in the background. The sequences are certainly effective, conveying a sense of fear and urgency. You want the couple to be safe as quickly as possible, but you know that this won’t be the case. Both Petsch, known from Riverdale, and Gutierrez (Cruel Summer) do a solid job of depicting a young couple on their path to marriage and fresh career choices. Despite their best efforts, the actors cannot redeem the film from its poorly written-storyline.

Bertino, sadly, had few creative ideas for this one. In effect, the key characters’ behaviors are irrational and outright ridiculous; they are frequently excessively slow or continue with a speech when there is no time for such things, especially when attempting to escape a group of murderers. Let me also ask you a question: how many of you would take a shower knowing that someone is surrounding the house, stalking you, and knocking on the door asking to see Tamara? I doubt many of you, and neither would I, but the character in The Strangers: Chapter 1 does. Is it logical, given the circumstances? Not really.

The Strangers Chapter 1 Review
Madelaine Petsch as Maya in The Strangers – Chapter 1. Photo Credit: John Armour

As a fan of the 2008 film, it pains me to watch the franchise going downhill. Given the story from the first installment, I’m not sure how Chapter 2 would make sense. Perhaps we will learn more about the masked killers’ lives? We shall see.

Despite decent acting and sound direction, The Strangers: Chapter 1 is one of the new films to skip, unless you’re a die-hard fan of the film series and want to speculate on what happens next. Otherwise, expect to leave the movie theater unhappy, confused, and perhaps resentful of having wasted an hour and a half.

Grade: C

The Strangers: Chapter 1

The Strangers: Chapter 1

After their car breaks down, a couple driving cross-country to begin a new life in the Pacific Northwest is forced to spend the night in a secluded rental, where they are terrorized from dusk till dawn by three masked strangers.

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