The Strangers has an intriguing hook. What if you and your significant other were trapped in isolation and terrorized by three creep-as-hell assailants? Unfortunately, the more time you spend with The Strangers, the more you realize that hook is all it has up its sleeve. The rest is composed of thin characters and hollow threats. Luckily, a new 2K transfer, Unrated Cut, and new Special Features breathe just enough life to make this a Recommended release.
There is perhaps no better genre that benefits from minimalism than horror. The less revealed about what creeps in the night, the more our imagination fills in the gaps. That is, until minimalism is used to mask underdeveloped characters, motivations, and an overall message.
Bryan Bertino’s The Strangers has as simple a premise as they come. Kristen McKay (Liv Tyler) and James Hoyt (Scott Speedman) are a couple who take a trip to a secluded cabin where they are terrorized by three masked individuals. Its minimalism and 70’s vibe is entrancing. Unfortunately, its promising foreboding qualities fade once we aren’t given lead characters we know anything about or killers that have a motive. As The Strangers reached its hour mark, I was already feeling unfulfilled. Beyond its initial premise, The Strangers feels hollow and fails to keep its intrigue throughout.
To read our full review penned for the previous Blu-ray release, click HERE.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Shout! Factory brings The Strangers to Blu-ray for a round two with just a little extra, starting with a slipcover to hardcover casing accompanied by reversible artwork. Enclosed lies two BD-50 Blu-rays that, unlike the previous Universal release, separate the Rated and Unrated version on separate discs. If that is not enough, each disc gets its own (and for the most part all new) Special Features. Once the disc is popped in, we are treated to the usual trailers that lead to a great new main menu that allows you to navigate from there. Even though there is no digital copy, this packaging alone is worth the pickup.
Shout! Factory keeps the 70's vibe alive with The Strangers 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encode that slays its old transfer to a bloody pulp. Away is the dated VC-1 encode for both films on the same BD-25 disc. Framed at the same 2.39:1 aspect ratio, along with the upgraded encode, each version of the film is given its own BD-50 disc that allows for a better consistent transfer that showcases the cinematographer's intent more than the previous version. Whatever version you choose, you get the same 2K scan of the original negative. Watching The Strangers this time, I was struck by the deep, atmospheric black levels that give this a true 70's vibe and brought me back to films such as the original Halloween, or any other older John Carpenter film. The eerie black levels said the same, if not more, about those films than the characters themselves. Part of being shot on 35mm comes a healthy amount of grain that feels at home with the 70's grit and grime. The only downside to this is that at times detail can be left by the wayside with all the style on display here. It isn't a huge problem, but let's just say this isn't the sharpest knife on the shelf. This transfer does everything it's supposed to do and then some. It turns a murky grainy mess into a moody, atmospheric delight.
The Strangers stalks your home theater with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix for both versions that sounds a whole lot like the previous mix, but that isn’t a bad thing. Atmosphere is the name of the game with this track, and it works quite effectively. Every thump, and creek creeps through the surrounds with a great deal of depth giving a larger than usual feel to the field of sound. The LFE channel is also quite hefty with sudden thuds hitting hard, making you jump. Dialogue is clear and audible, along with overall levels. And as an added bonus, to please the 70’s film fans, we are given a DTS-HD MA 2.0 track to assist in the old school horror vibe. It might be a sin to some people, but I actually prefer surround mixes even on my older film. But when you add it all up, there is quite the value here in the Audio department. And whichever way you choose to go they both will have you standing on edge in no time.
The Special Features are spread evenly across both the Theatrical and the Unrated discs.
"Element of Terror" Featurette (HD 9:12) - A quite lengthy introduction to the movie narrated by cast and crew.
"Strangers at the Door" Featurette (HD 9:37) - One of the Features that were carried over from the previous release. An intro to the film that is told by the crew, with the exception of Liv Tyler, and covers the more technical side of the production.
Deleted Scenes (HD 4:46)
TV Spots (HD 1:34)
Theatrical Trailer (HD 1:11)
Defining Moments: Writing and Directing The Strangers (HD 29:37) - An interview style feature where Director Bryan Bertino talks about his decisions with casting, direction, and scripting The Strangers.
All the Right Movies: Kip Weeks on Playing the Man in the Mask (HD 11:34) - The actor talks about what it takes to become the masked man, and the personality he gave behind the mask.
Brains and Brawn: Laura Margolis on Playing Pin-Up Girl (HD 13:44) - Wondering what it takes for actress Laura Margolis to play a woman so dangerous. Margolis talks about changes made to the film, and what it took for her to portray the twisted character.
Deep Cuts: Kevin Greutert on Editing The Strangers (HD 20:29) - A revealing featurette as Greutert goes into the myriad of changes made in the editing process and how it compares to his previous work.
The Strangers excels in its 70's vibe and tone. Its unnerving beginning had me on the edge of my seat to the point where you could have heard a pin drop, I was so silent. Unfortunately, that cannot sustain its runtime, and it left me needing more from its protagonists in order to really care about them, or more from our "Strangers" to get me rooting for them. There is a hollow quality to The Strangers that left me feeling quite ambivalent about it after I realized its premise didn’t sustain its meager runtime. But there is an audience for this film and if you are one of them then this is easily a Recommended pick up as it is a step up from its previous release in pretty much every way.