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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The Strangers (Collector's Edition) (Blu-ray)
The Strangers (Collector's Edition) (Blu-ray)
Shout Factory // R // March 6, 2018 // Region A
List Price: $34.93 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by William Harrison | posted March 11, 2018 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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P R I N T
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THE FILM:

Click an image to view Blu-ray screenshot with 1080p resolution.

I will never forget my experience seeing The Strangers in the theater opening weekend in May 2008. Two things were unique: 1) the audience was actually into the film, rare for a horror movie, and not talking throughout and 2) the fire alarm went off right as a masked, ax-wielding man pops up behind an unsuspecting character. Half the theater shrieked as the alarm sounded, adding to the fun. The theater was kind enough to back the film up to before the point of interruption after the all-clear, so I did finish the movie that day. Ten years later - how time has flown - Bryan Bertino's film remains a lean, intense thrill ride, with excellent performances from Scott Speedman and Liv Tyler. Shout! Factory's new Collector's Edition Blu-ray offers excellent picture and sound, and, for the first time, some in-depth supplements to accompany the film.

After the prologue, in which we hear a 911 call and see the bloody remnants of some kind of struggle, viewers are dropped in on the lives of James (Speedman) and Kristen (Tyler). Neither is happy as they drive home from a wedding. We learn James asked Kristen to marry him and she declined, telling him she was not ready. They return to James's family's vacation house, where rose pedals and champagne act like salt rubbed into a wound. They talk in the quiet house before hearing a knock at the door. Outside, a woman, heavily concealed in shadow, asks, "Is Tamara home?" James tells the woman she has come to the wrong place, and he and Kristen return inside. When James later goes to get Kristen cigarettes, the woman seemingly returns, and begins knocking loudly on the front door. Kristen soon realizes there are others on the prowl, and begins a cat and mouse chase with the strangers to stay alive.

This film is successful because it runs on fear of the unknown. As in my favorite movie, Halloween, the villains here are unexplained and faceless, save for their creepy, porcelain-face and sack masks. There are several shots in this film that absolutely floored the audience during my theatrical viewing, and The Strangers relies on quiet terror rather than extreme jump cuts and gore. The film also cleverly isolates the panicked couple inside the home. It is not that the house is miles from civilization; it is that the strangers will not let Kristen and James leave. This is evident in daylight shots of the house shown later in the film. More brutal than the violence here is the reason for the assault: "Because you were home." The Strangers reminds us that trouble can come knocking in all the decent neighborhoods across the world and that doors and locks cannot always protect us.

The film elevates itself with solid camera work and editing, and the performances are good across the board. Speedman has to play both exasperated and scared in a short period of time, and he does so convincingly. Tyler is also very believable in this role. Each decision she makes in the film seems appropriate under the circumstances. Kristen never devolves into a hysterical mess nor does she become some superhuman burglar killer. At just 86 minutes, with a couple added in the unrated version, The Strangers never outstays its welcome. The gore is minimal but what is there is necessary and affecting. I have seen this film several times in the last decade, and it remains frightening. Unlike some horror movies that offer little replay value, The Strangers stands the test of time. Lean, frightening and impressively constructed, The Strangers is highly recommended.

THE BLU-RAY:

PICTURE:

Each version of the film is allotted its own disc, and each is given a new 2.35:1/1080p/AVC-encoded transfer taken from the 2K digital intermediate. Results are impressive, and best the original Blu-ray release. Each transfer sports a healthy bitrate, so compression artifacts are not an issue. The color saturation, sharpness and black levels are all improved here over the original Universal Blu-ray. Fine-object detail is abundant, and textures are impressive throughout. Close-ups reveal intimate facial features and set dressings, and wide shots are crisp and clean. Black levels are steady, shadow detail is readily apparent and the image looks great in motion. The Strangers was shot on film, and the transfer is vibrant and lifelike, with consistent grain and gorgeous primaries. Other than some extremely minor aliasing and black crush, this is an excellent remaster.

SOUND:

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio sound mixes are highly effective, and ramp up the horror-film tension with explosive sound pans and extensive atmospheric effects. Dialogue is crystal clear and without distortion, and is layered expertly with effects and score. Knocks pound from around the sound field as Tyler cowers, and the subwoofer supports the terror. Action effects blaze through the surrounds, and the quiet, environmental effects coil around the listener like a snake. The score is deep and nuanced, with excellent range. Alternate audio options include English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio stereo mixes. English SDH subtitles are included.

PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:

This two-disc Collector's Edition package includes both the theatrical version (86 minutes) and the unrated version (88 minutes); with the theatrical version on Disc 1 and the unrated version on Disc 2. The discs are packed in a standard case with two-sided artwork. The key artwork is replicated on the attractive slipcover. The Universal Blu-ray offered few extras, so fans will be pleased with the new material:

  • The Elements of Terror (Disc 1/9:12/HD) - This is an EPK featurette with some behind-the-scenes footage of the cast and crew.
  • Strangers at the Door (Disc 1/9:37/HD) - A carryover from the original disc, this is a short EPK making-of featurette with cast and crew interviews.
  • Deleted Scenes (Disc 1/4:46 total/HD) - Two deleted scenes offer a couple of character beats.
  • TV Spots (Disc 1/1:34/HD).
  • Theatrical Trailer (Disc 1/1:11/HD).
  • Defining Moments: Writing and Directing The Strangers (Disc 2/29:37/HD) - Director Bryan Bertino gives a solid interview about the project, including its origins, filming and release. I had no idea Universal sat on this film for almost a year after production wrapped!
  • All the Right Moves: Kip Weeks on Playing the Man in the Mask (Disc 2/11:34/HD) - The actor discusses the process behind playing a masked villain and how he was selected for the part.
  • Brains and Brawn: Laura Margolis on Playing Pin-Up Girl (Disc 2/13:44/HD) - The actress talks working with her co-stars Weeks and Gemma Ward to terrorize Speedman and Tyler and reveals some of the changes from the original script.
  • Deep Cuts: Kevin Greutert on Editing The Strangers (Disc 2/20:29/HD) - The editor recalls shuffling scenes about to create a better final product based on audience feedback.
  • Still Gallery (Disc 2/4:02/HD).

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Shout! Factory again creates an excellent Collector's Edition for genre fans, this time for the 2008 horror film The Strangers with Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman. This lean, frightening movie holds up a decade later, and this new release offers excellent A/V specs and a host of newly created bonus material. Highly Recommended.


Additional screenshots:

William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.

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