The Strangers: Chapter 1 Review

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Rating: 3/5

Synopsis:

The original “Strangers” movie was one of the biggest sleeper hits of its time. It proved to be a financial success and developed a strong cult following. I myself am a big fan of the original film. This loose reboot/remake follows a similar premise, where a couple’s car breaks down in a small Oregon town. They are forced to spend the night at a remote Airbnb. But their peace is short-lived as three masked individuals begin terrorizing them. As violence ensues, the couple must try and survive the night before they fall victim to these merciless strangers. 

Positives:

For better or worse, “Chapter 1” follows a similar structure to the original. The simple premise of being in a remote location where three intruders initiate violence for no apparent reason is unsettling. I really enjoy that there is a small cast here. We really get to sit with them for a while and feel like we’re a part of the experience with them. The intimate setting and small scale work well. The claustrophobic nature of the story where no escape is visible makes the situation all the more terrifying. But the most intriguing part of the story is that we have no idea why these strangers are terrorizing the couple. The anonymous nature of their motive and the brutality they harbor creates another layer of unease for the viewer. I think this makes them scarier as we’re constantly wondering what their motive is. The mystery of these foes linger as their history and motives are teased throughout the film, something the original film didn’t do. 

The film feels more polished than the original as well. The brutal, gritty indie vibe is swapped for a polished, modern adaption. There are tweaks made to the strangers’ appearance but they maintain their great costumes for the most part. Their psychotic presence is still in full force. But there is this lingering feeling that something larger is going on, whether that be the strange behavior of the townsfolk or the seemingly coincidental problems happening to the outsider couple. A grander idea is being built, leaving the second and third film to go further into the motives of these individuals. I’m hoping this pays off because I was a big fan of the ominous nature of the original. The fact that we never learned why the strangers attacked people made them scarier. Here’s to hoping the next films provide worthwhile answers because the filmmakers are clearly teasing that. 

Negatives:

While I enjoyed my time with “The Strangers” reboot, I’ll admit I was slightly underwhelmed. There isn’t much new here as most of the framework is beat for beat from the original film. Director Renny Harlin brings a different style to this film that gives it a unique flavor. But I’d say I prefer the original in almost every facet. The tension, brutality, mystique, and cast are all better in that film. Not to say the original cast was stellar, but I don’t think this was the strongest horror couple on screen. They make some incredibly dumb decisions and don’t do themselves any favors in gaining audience support. The boyfriend makes two dumb decisions towards the end of the film that made me feel like my skin was being dragged across sandpaper. I’m normally pretty forgiving with logic like this in slashers…but these kinds of decisions by the writers are unacceptable. It knocked down my rating of the film a lot. The characters don’t have to be stellar but they have to be better than this. I also hope the next films go for something new. “Chapter 1” thrives in its simplicity and inspiration from the original film. I think this ultimately ends up hurting it because it makes the story feel a bit pointless. Hopefully some fresh ideas and bold directions in the next film help bolster this one. 

Conclusion:

“The Strangers: Chapter 1” will ultimately have its legacy decided by the outcome of the next two movies. There is some good tension built and a great premise at hand. But the familiarity and dumb decision making by the characters really hamper this one when comparing it to the original. Was it fun? Yeah, I’d say so. Was it worth remaking yet? Too early to say. I sure hope parts two and three do something different to warrant this trilogy. “Chapter 1” has done enough to garner my interest…but what comes next is what counts.