The Strangers: Chapter 1 evaluate: a boring horror retread

Two masked killers stand near a truck in The Strangers: Chapter 1.
The Strangers: Chapter 1

“The Strangers: Chapter 1 is a disappointing follow-up to its franchise’s first installment.”

  • Madelaine Petsch’s all-in lead efficiency
  • One genuinely unnerving, tense sequence
  • A formulaic, frustratingly acquainted script
  • An overly convoluted first act
  • A narrative that provides astonishingly little to what’s come earlier than it

The Strangers: Chapter 1 is as complicated as it’s underwhelming. The movie, an try and money in additional on the success of director Bryan Bertino’s 2008 horror hit The Strangers, has been bought as the newest installment in a franchise that has by no means absolutely capitalized on the success of its first entry.

Does that imply Chapter 1 is a sequel to The Strangers? Or a prequel? Its title and the trailer’s tagline (“Witness how the strangers became the strangers”) would recommend that it’s the latter, however its protagonists’ decidedly trendy smartphones and a passing point out of Airbnb place its story a few years after its 2008 predecessor. Some might take into account that nitpicking, nevertheless it factors to only how little thought appears to have gone into the conception and making of The Strangers: Chapter 1.

There’s a half-baked feeling to the film that not solely renders it largely ineffective, but in addition makes it really feel, at occasions, insultingly lazy. In truth, whether or not it’s a sequel or a prequel doesn’t matter as a result of the movie borrows a lot from the unique Strangers that it feels extra like a remake than a follow-up of any variety. While it delivers a number of moments of real pressure and dread, The Strangers: Chapter 1 by no means comes near replicating the disturbing magic of Bertino’s breakout horror hit. The new movie polishes away the unsteady, rough-and-ready nature of that now-iconic, late 2000s residence invasion thriller and, in doing so, loses the intimate, grounded energy that makes The Strangers nonetheless so unnerving to this present day.

Maya sits with Ryan in The Strangers: Chapter 1.
John Armour / Lionsgate

In what’s one in every of its solely main deviations from its 2008 predecessor, The Strangers: Chapter 1 follows two characters who aren’t on the verge of probably breaking apart with one another, however whose relationship appears stronger than ever. When the movie begins, Maya (Madelaine Petsch) and Ryan (Froy Gutierrez) aren’t sitting within the uncomfortable aftermath of a failed marriage proposal, however playfully discovering methods to kill time as they close to the tip of a multiday drive to Oregon. Their journey takes an surprising flip when Ryan takes a detour by means of an off-the-radar, small backwoods city they usually subsequently discover themselves stranded with a automobile that received’t begin.

Whereas The Strangers wastes little time establishing its leads’ simple circumstances, Chapter 1 spends most of its first act predictably trapping Ryan and Maya in a well-known horror film state of affairs. Unable to renew their drive, the 2 are compelled to spend the evening at an Airbnb in the course of the woods, and it’s solely a matter of time earlier than they’re being stalked, taunted, and attacked — like Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman’s Kristen and James in The Strangers — by three mysterious masked killers. Behind the digicam, director Renny Harlin pays homage to a number of iconic moments from Chapter 1‘s guardian movie, whereas Alan R. Cohen and Alan Freedland pack their script to the brim with twists and particulars which are additionally pulled immediately from it.

Maya and Ryan’s palpable love for one another provides a special shade of tragedy to the occasions of Chapter 1, however the thriller stays so slavishly dedicated to The Strangers‘ original structure and plot that their relationship doesn’t alter the film all that a lot in the long run. The movie stretches out its killers’ gradual invasion longer than its predecessor, and it’s within the early levels of Chapter 1‘s second act that it manages to find the time for entirely new gags and instances of bone-chilling tension. However, the movie ultimately sticks to the same general path as The Strangers and borrows so many of that film’s greatest dramatic beats that the stress it builds previous to Maya and Ryan’s realization of their state of affairs inevitably dissipates when you understand precisely how indebted Chapter 1 is to a horror film that got here out over 15 years in the past.

Maya peers into a kitchen in The Strangers: Chapter 1.
John Armour / Lionsgate

To make issues worse, The Strangers: Chapter 1 doesn’t pull off practically as lots of its greatest moments in addition to the movie that it steals a lot from. Harlin, as an illustration, visually reveals the presence of the movie’s killers in Ryan and Maya’s Airbnb with a fast shot of a masked intruder strolling in entrance of the digicam whereas Maya stands unaware along with her again to them. It’s a a lot showier shot than the one which serves the very same goal in The Strangers, by which a masked intruder silently emerges within the shadows behind an unaware Liv Tyler. Unfortunately, the extra pronounced nature of the reveal makes it significantly much less stomach-churning and quietly unsettling. The identical is true of the movie itself, which abandons the lived-in, handheld aesthetic of The Strangers in favor of a flashier and fewer suave method.

There are moments when Chapter 1 delivers on the terrifying promise of its preliminary trailers. A piece early on when Maya is left alone to be unexpectedly stalked and terrorized by her oft-unseen attackers makes use of a collection of well-calculated sound design selections and ominous perspective photographs to create a way of impending doom that briefly turns into suffocating. Although The Strangers: Chapter 1 doesn’t have many memorable characters to supply and is barely dragged down by Gutierrez’s stiff efficiency, Petsch provides an impressively dedicated, unrestrained flip as Maya that makes it simple to root for her — even when she’s making errors and illogical choices that ought to depart most horror followers alternately laughing and rolling their eyes.

A masked killer stands in a forest in The Strangers: Chapter 1.
John Armour / Lionsgate

In The Strangers: Chapter 1‘s closing minutes, the film finally pushes itself and its franchise into relatively new territory. Its most interesting twist is cut short by a “to be continued” title card, though, which sets up the releases of the two, already shot sequels that Chapter 1, unfortunately, doesn’t garner sufficient goodwill to generate any pleasure for. It’s a film that provides so little to what’s already come earlier than it that it leaves one confused why it was even made within the first place — not to mention envisioned because the opening installment of a brand new trilogy. Whatever good concepts The Strangers: Chapter 1 may need had find yourself buried beneath a pile of recycled moments and pictures, most of which solely serve to remind you ways inferior it’s to the movie that it borrows half of its title and much, much more from.

The Strangers: Chapter 1 is now enjoying in theaters.

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