Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Strangers (2008, USA)

Directed by: Bryan Bertino
Produced by: Doug Davison, Roy Lee, Nathan Kahane
Written by: Bryan Bertino
Starring: Liv Tyler, Scott Speedman, Glenn Howerton, Gemma Ward, Laura Margolis, Kip Weeks
Music by: Tom Hajdu, Andy Milburn
Cinematography: Peter Sova
Editing by: Kevin Greutert
Production by: Vertigo Entertainment, Mandate Pictures
Distributed by: Rogue Pictures, Intrepid Pictures
Release dates: May 30, 2008
Running time: 86 min
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $9 million
Box office: $82,391,145
Plot: After returning from a wedding reception, a couple staying in an isolated vacation house receive a knock on the door in the mid-hours of the night. What ensues is a violent invasion by three strangers, their faces hidden behind masks. The couple find themselves in a violent struggle, in which they go beyond what either of them thought capable in order to survive.

Info: The Strangers is a 2008 American horror film written and directed by Bryan Bertino and starring Liv Tyler, Scott Speedman, Glenn Howerton, Gemma Ward, Laura Margolis and Kip Weeks. The film revolves around a young couple who are terrorized by three masked assailants, who break into the remote summer home in which they are staying and damage all means of escape.

The Strangers was made on a budget of $9 million and after two postponements was released theatrically on May 30, 2008, in North America. It grossed $82.3 million at the box office worldwide. Marketed as "inspired by true events", writer and director Bryan Bertino stated that the film was inspired by a series of break-ins that occurred in his neighborhood as a child, as well as some incidents that occurred during the Manson killings (though website iO9 submits there is lack of legitimacy towards claiming the events are inspired as true). Critical reaction to the film was mixed.

Director Bryan Bertino also wrote the film's script, which was originally titled The Faces. Bertino took a particular interest in the horror genre, noting how one can connect to an audience by scaring them. He also stated that he was significantly inspired by thriller films of the 1970s while writing the film.



The Strangers original 2008 trailer.

According to production notes, the film was inspired by true events from director Bryan Bertino's childhood: a stranger came to his home asking for someone who was not there, and Bertino later found out that empty houses in the neighborhood had been broken into that night: "As a kid, I lived in a house on a street in the middle of nowhere. One night, while our parents were out, somebody knocked on the front door and my little sister answered it. At the door were some people asking for somebody who didn't live there. We later found out that these people were knocking on doors in the area and, if no one was home, breaking into the houses".

In interviews, Bertino stated he was "very impressed" with some of the theories circulating on the Internet about the "true events" the movie is allegedly based on, but said his main inspiration was from the true crime book Helter Skelter; some have said that the film was also inspired by the Keddie Cabin Murders of 1981 that occurred in a small vacation community in California's Sierra Nevada. The 2006 French film entitled THEM is very similar in plot.

When casting the two leads in the film, Bertino sought Liv Tyler for the part of Kristen; Tyler, who had not worked for several years due to the birth of her son, read the script out of a stack of others she had been offered; "It spoke to me", she said. "I especially liked Bryan's way of saying a lot, but not saying everything. Often in movies, it's all spelled out for you, and the dialogue is very explanatory. But Bryan doesn't write like that; he writes how normal people communicate—with questions lingering. I knew it would be interesting to act that."

Early promotional posters for The Strangers.
 
Canadian actor Scott Speedman was cast as James, Kristen's longtime boyfriend. Speedman was also riveted by the script: "The audience actually gets time to breathe with the characters before things get scary as hell. That got me interested from the first pages", he said. In casting the three masked intruders, Bertino chose Australian fashion model Gemma Ward for the part of Dollface, feeling she had the exact "look" he had imagined. In preparing for the role, which was her first major acting part, Ward read Helter Skelter for inspiration. Kip Weeks was then cast as the looming Man in the Mask, and television actress Laura Margolis, who found the script to be a real "page turner", was cast in the part of Pin-Up Girl.

On a $9 million budget, filming for The Strangers began on October 10, 2006, and finished in early 2007 – the movie was filmed on location roughly ten miles outside of Florence, South Carolina, and the 2,000-square-foot (190 m2) house interior was constructed by a set crew. Though the film takes place in 2005, the house itself was deliberately constructed with an architecture reminiscent of 1970s ranch houses and dressed in furnishings applicable to the era. The property was located on the outskirts of Timmonsville, South Carolina. During production, it was reported that star Liv Tyler came down with tonsillitis due to screaming so much. Despite some weather complications, the film was largely shot in chronological order.

In late July 2007, director Bertino and stars Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman attended San Diego's annual Comic-Con event to promote the film; all three were present for a questions-and-answers panel session, as well as a screening of the film's official teaser trailer; this trailer was released on the internet several weeks later, and can be found on YouTube. It was not until March 2008 that a full-length trailer for the film was released, which can be found on Apple's QuickTime trailer gallery. The trailer originally began running in theaters attached to Rogue Pictures' sci-fi film Doomsday (2008) in March 2008, and television advertisements began airing on networks in early-mid April 2008 to promote the film's May release.

The Strangers promotional/press photos. The Mask (Kip Weeks), left. Dollface (Gemma Ward), right.
 
Two one-sheet posters for the film were released in August 2007, one showing the three masked Strangers, and the other displaying a wounded Liv Tyler. In April 2008, roughly two months before the film's official theatrical debut, the final, official one-sheet for the film was released, featuring Liv Tyler standing in a darkened kitchen with a masked man looming behind her in the shadows.

The producers originally planned for a summer release in 2007, which was eventually postponed to November 2007. It was pushed back yet one more time, and officially opened in the United States and Canada on May 30, 2008; in its opening weekend, the film grossed $20,997,985 in 2,467 theaters, ranking #3 at the box office and averaging $8,514 per theater. As of June 23, 2008 the film has grossed $52,597,610 in the U.S. alone exceeding industry estimates, and is considered a large box office success considering the production budget was a mere $9 million. The film opened in the United Kingdom later that summer on August 29, 2008, and as of September 21, 2008, had grossed £4,025,916. The overall box office return was highly successful for a horror film earning an outstanding $82.3 million at the box office worldwide. The movie received a rating of R from the MPAA.

The Strangers was released on DVD and Blu-ray in the United States on October 21, 2008. Both the Blu-ray and DVD feature rated and unrated versions of the film, with the unrated edition running approximately two minutes longer. Bonus materials include two deleted scenes and a making-of featurette. The DVD was released in the UK on December 26, 2008. The film was available on Universal VOD (Video on Demand) from November 19, 2008 through March 31, 2009.


The Strangers promotional/press photos. Scott Speedman (left). Liv Tyler (right).

The soundtrack of this film was released on the May 27, 2008. The album consists completely of 19 scores composed by score producer tomandandy. The soundtrack was distributed by Lakeshore Records. The album was received with generally positive reviews by critics. "It's a creepy score for what appears to be a movie that will make you jump as well as make sure that the doors are locked at night," writes reviewer Jeff Swindoll. "This is an impressive score and adds a tremendous chill-factor to the film," says Zach Freeman, grading it with an A.

Rogue Pictures' producers confirmed to Variety that a sequel is in the works, tentatively titled The Strangers: Part II. The film will be written by Bryan Bertino and directed by Laurent Briet. Shock Till You Drop reported that Realitivity Media put The Strangers: Part II on hold because they found that the movie might not be in their interest, even though Universal Pictures is willing to release it. However, Rogue Pictures confirmed in January 2011 that the sequel is now in production, and was supposed to begin filming as early as April 2011.

The plot follows a family of four who have been evicted from their home due to the economy, and are paid a visit by the same three strangers from the first film. It is not known whether the sequel will receive a theatrical or a straight-to-DVD release. Liv Tyler will return as Kristen McKay while the original three masked villains are also set to return, however, in an interview Tyler had announced that she would only have a minor role. According to Liv Tyler, The Strangers: Part II will be released in late 2014.

Film Facts: The script was originally titled "The Faces."

Bryan Bertino said the film was inspired by the infamous Charles Manson murders.

The Strangers masks. The Girl (left). Dollface (right).
 
 
Above is a Amazon link to the closest look we could find for The Strangers mask. The Strangers masks is not produced. The picture above is custom made prop replicas. You can make your own or purchase the Emo Girl Mask through Amazon. That's the only mask we could find that looks the closest.
 
Arguably based on the 1981 Keddie Resort murders in northern California, although this has not been substantiated by anyone connected with the movie, with the writer claiming it is based on a childhood experience.

According to director Bryan Bertino the film is partially based on an incident he experienced as a child. One evening, a stranger came to his door, asked for someone who wasn't there, and left. Later, Bertino found out that other homes in his neighborhood had been broken into that night.

Before filming any scene after The Strangers begin terrorizing the couple, Liv Tyler would have to run laps, do jumping jacks, and other physical activities to get her out of breath. This was so she would have the panicky feeling the real life characters would have been experiencing.

During filming, in order to get an actual reaction from Liv Tyler, Bryan Bertino would tell her where to expect a loud bang from, but would then have the loud noise come from a completely different direction.

The film was shot entirely with hand-held cameras or steady cams. Every shot has some camera movement.

Many theaters across the United States were sent faulty reels of the movie, containing sound problems, which made a few minutes to several scenes of the movie filled with nothing but static. Most movie-watchers didn't even realize the sound was a problem, since the dark overtone and loud background music at some areas make the static seem like part of the movie.

The film makers tried to design the house as one that "your brother could have lived in, that you could have grown up in" in order to make the audience feel more attached to the film. The movie was not shot inside of an actual house, the interior of the home was built on a sound stage.

The exterior shots of the house were filmed at an actual farm house. The film makers were surprised to discover the property had a barn, garage, a forest and a long enough road. The film was shot in chronological order.

The song "Mama Tried", which is heard several times during the film playing on the record player, is a 1968 hit by Merle Haggard and the Strangers.

The car crash sequence was filmed in three takes.

Originally scheduled for release in summer 2007. After 2 delays, it was released May 30, 2008.

Liv Tyler suffered from tonsillitis during shooting.

Liv Tyler is Aerosmith vocalist Steven Tyler's daughter.

Mark Romanek was originally slated to direct the film.

According to Bryan Bertino and Liv Tyler, the finale had much more interaction and dialog between the victims and the strangers in the original script. It was cut to keep the intruders mysterious and eerie.

There were two special prosthetic makeups for Glenn Howerton. One of them was for fresh kill (which took 3 hours in the make-up chair), when he was shot in the face by Scott Speedman, and the other was for 1-hour-later prosthetics.

I seem to be approaching nihilist films on a streak, viewing "The Virgin Spring" recently. The Strangers has a lot of that "philosophy" crammed in. I read comments claiming the film doesn't connect us to the characters, and is crammed of every cliché to be. Oh the irony. When we see horror films, being attached to characters is a repeated figure, a screenwriter's must. Bertino does good in creating the night horror without any development, no overbearing crudeness, playing suspense and psychological terror like piano keys.

This is the approach: the strangers attack because their victims "are at home", and they do not respond to pleas, long reasonings or emotions. It's nihilism pure: they kill because they find control and domination powerful, and they don't care about consequences, moral or of any other kind. In that optic, "The Strangers" is truly scary. We are not dealing with supernatural beings, but human beings, who chose the path of downright evil and can't be convinced of not doing it. People like that may be lurking out there, and that scares most of us viewers.



Amazon: The Strangers (Universal Studios) - $5.99 (DVD)
Amazon: The Strangers (Universal Studios) - $7.49 (BLU-RAY)

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