Posted by: Peter Hall
It wasn’t until this past Saturday that I fully realized just how strong of a film THE STRANGERS (review) is. Seeing it in theaters elicited seat stirring and all manner of other audible audience discomfort, but seeing it in a home theater was an entirely different experience.
We regularly host movie days and less than twenty four hours ago THE STRANGERS entered the lineup. Of the 10 people in the room, at least one refused to even watch the movie. After much coaxing, however, she was at least willing to remain in the room, albeit with her gaze averted most of the time. What happened next I was not expecting.
Over the years I’ve shown all breed of films at our movie days. Nothing has come close to grazing the reaction THE STRANGERS got. [REC] had people literally pulling their hair out, but even it was not as universally effective as Bryan Bertino’s film. I cannot recall the last time a film merited such discussion. Not post-coital examination of what worked and why (my crowd could care less to this regard), but full on mid-film murmuring. It was not out of disinterest in the film. No, not at all. Grown men were chattering like school girls in an attempt to diffuse the tension. Several even pointed this intention out, begging for people to start talking again whenever the home invasion film struck the crowd to silence. I was reveling in it, proud that a studio picture could work such a number over on a crowd as large and as diversified as those in my basement.
It wasn’t until the picture ended and someone jumped up to turn on the lights that some began to decry the film. Its moronic test-screening infused last grab for attention, while not a deal killer, was a lame after taste memorable enough to overpower everything that had come before. Fortunately most were able to acknowledge that the film worked, worked better than they were expecting it too. I was amazed at how easily two plastic masks and a sack could get under the skin of an entire room full of people. Why though?