The Strangers: Chapter 1 Dir: Renny Harlin (Film Review)

The Strangers: Chapter 1—Another Hollywood Reboot No One Asked For!

Starring: Ella Bruccoleri, Richard Brake, Madelaine Petsch, Ema Horvath, Gabriel Basso, Froy Gutierrez, Rachel Shenton

Hollywood is bereft of new ideas. Yet, as studios look to regurgitate and adapt IP, it’s still surprising that 2008’s The Strangers would spawn a new trilogy with Renny Harlin at the helm. Why reboot a film that has had little cultural impact? For the money, of course. The Strangers raked in $82.4 million at the box office with a budget of only $9 million. Horror is a seemingly ‘critic-proof’ genre, but The Strangers: Chapter 1 will test even the more hardcore horror fans.

Harlin, a journeyman director known for A Nightmare on Elm Street 4, Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger, The Long Kiss Goodnight and Deep Blue Sea, shot The Strangers: Chapter 1, 2 and 3 in 52 days. This first chapter attempts to lay the foundation for the subsequent films—three masked strangers terrorize a couple staying at a secluded Airbnb in a Pacific Northwest town called Venus. It’s obvious that this town and its inhabitants will play a more significant role in The Strangers: Chapter 2 and The Strangers: Chapter 3. Horror icon Richard Brake plays the creepy sheriff, and The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power star Ema Horvath as Shelly, a waitress, briefly feature.

Harlin has described The Strangers: Chapter 1 as “the first act” of “one 4.5 hour” film. If this first ‘act’ is anything to go by, the next two will be unnecessary and tedious. We’ve seen this film before. It’s essentially a copy and paste of 2008’s The Strangers. Somehow more tedious, The Strangers: Chapter 1 is devoid of rhyme or reason. Maya and Ryan, the two antagonists, are meant to be a loving couple. They pair together like toothpaste and orange juice. But I’d rather brush my teeth and rinse my mouth with juice for the rest of my life than watch this film’s sorry attempt at being ‘scary’ again.

The number of egregious horror cliches The Strangers: Chapter 1 stuffs into 90 minutes is an almost impressive feat. You wait and wait for something exciting to happen that will raise the hair on your skin and set your pulse racing, but you’re continuously disappointed. Even the kills, the bread and butter of any horror film, underwhelm and bore. The Strangers: Chapter 1 doesn’t dare to push boundaries or try anything new, which may be its biggest crime. The film is dead on arrival. Not even a teasing post-credits scene will get audiences excited for two more films that promise more of the same.

Thomas Giblin

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