... you can learn from:
The Strangers (2008)
Kristen: She's watching us.
James: She looks like a ghost.
Do you want me to go talk to her?
Kristen: They don't want to talk.
James: Well they want something.
People don't just stand out there, staring
at us like that. They want something.
A happy 10 to Brian Bertino's super great horror film The Strangers today! Here is my original review from when it came out. And our pal Joe Reid wrote up a nice tribute to the film over at Decider this morning, go check that out. I wouldn't go as far as Joe did to call it the best horror film of the past decade (in very related news hey look Martyrs is turning 10 this fall) but it's excellent and very scary indeed, says me.
And I'm curious - have any of you seen Bertino's two directorial follow-ups - there's the found-footage-esque Mockingbird in 2014 which I personally dug (here's my review), and then there's The Monster, 2016's movie about a mom (Zoe Kazan) and her daughter who find themselves trapped on a deserted stretch of road with... something... stalking them outside.
I saw The Monster but a check of the archive shows I never reviewed it - I certainly can't do that now, it having been two years since I saw it, but I remember thinking it fine. Of course with something like The Strangers right out of the gate we fans don't really want "fine" - we're still waiting and hoping Bertino will truly terrify us again.
Bertino got a writing credit on the Strangers sequel, The Strangers: Prey At Night, which came out in March (and which you can rent on Amazon right now) but I'm not sure how involved he ultimately was in the end - anyway I coincidentally watched that over the weekend, so here are my thoughts. It doesn't really work. It follows basically the exact same formula as the first movie - the opening introduction to the characters is pretty protracted; it takes the time to let us marinate in their issues.
In this case it's Ye Olde Nuclear Family, Dad and Mom and Son and Daughter - the latter's a Bad Girl who they're carting off to reform school when dun dun dun they find themselves trapped with masked marauders in a middle-of-nowhere trailer park. All that is fine - Christina Hendricks is once again the best thing in a project well beneath her talents, and Martin Henderson is more DILF than the screen can handle - but once the scares start coming the film relies on the characters acting tremendously stupid time after time after time after time to the point of audience frustration. At a certain point you're just ready for them all to die because of how dumb they've been.
Take for instance one scene where one of the characters gets trapped in a car and then just sits there, literally just sits there, and lets the killer walk up and murder them without even so much as swatting a hand. That is a thing that happens. It's incredibly frustrating, especially in light of how gorgeous the movie is at times - there are shots of the lone streetlights hanging above empty roads in misty nighttime air that are breathtaking. But sadly the rest of the movie just doesn't live up to its cinematography's level.