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The Strangers Review – Why Won’t Liv Tyler Stop Crying?

The Strangers Review – Why Won’t Liv Tyler Stop Crying?” width=”560″/>

This weekend, while the Sex and the City women are laughing all the way to the bank, on the other side of the multiplex, things are much, much darker for the men. For them, there is only horror, anguish, confusion and despair. It comes courtesy of The Strangers, which begins with a man (Scott Speedman) and a woman (Liv Tyler) driving to a house in the middle of nowhere. They’re both in fancy party clothes, but she’s crying and he’s looking like he wants to cry, only he’s a manly man and so must settle for clenching his jaw, manfully.

They get to the house and despite the candles, rose petals, champagne, crackling fire and a bubble bath… Tyler is still crying. It’s like every man’s nightmare: You’ve done all the right things and she’s still not happy? So Speedman says he’ll give her the bedroom and he’ll sleep on the couch, and this is totally not making any sense to me: Bubble bath + candlelight + champagne + romance = sex. At this point in the movie, my palms were clammy and a cold sweat was trickling down my back. Did someone change the rules?

Depressed and despondent, Speedman sits at the table and pulls out a five gallon tub of ice cream and starts eating it with a spoon. This is obviously a horror movie about men turning into women. And not just any women — women from early 1990s romantic comedies, the kind of movies that use shots of women eating ice cream as shorthand for, “She’s feeling sad right now.” But then, as if to clear everything up: A flashback. Except this is the kind of flashback that directors who think they’re too good to need flashbacks use, where they end the scene right before you actually see what happened: Speedman says to Tyler, “I remember the first time I saw you,” and he’s turning a velvet box that wedding rings come in over and over in his hands. Only Tyler looks really upset and suddenly… the flashback is over.

What happened? He asked her to marry him and she – what? It doesn’t
matter — because what the director is saying is, “Is there anything
more castrating than asking Liv Tyler to marry you and she just stares
at you and cries?” And you look at Speedman and think, “If he can’t get
a girl to marry him, who can?” Feel your guts turning to ice water,
men? That’s real horror.

Later, some other stuff happens — like some kids come to their
house and try to kill them — and it took me until the movie was almost
over to realize that this is supposed to be the scary part. The kids
wear creepy masks and play mind games with Tyler and Speedman; mostly
it amounts to treading water while we wait for the credits. The first
time you see a spooky mask face, it’s scary. The twentieth time you see
a spooky mask face, it’s 20 times less scary.

This flick is a lesser version of the 2006 French horror movie Them (Ils), despite the fact that the producers and director of The Strangers are claiming as hard as they can that it’s an original project. Unfortunately for them, Them is much scarier, and much better made, delivering a real story with characters who stand a chance of escaping. The Strangers,
on the other hand, doesn’t have much to offer beyond some creepy stuff
at the beginning that’s repeated over and over again. You know from
the start that its characters stand about as much chance of surviving as Scott Speedman stands of getting some nookie from Liv
Tyler.

Grady Hendrix is one of the founders and programmers of the New York Asian Film Festival. He writes about Asian film for Variety at Kaiju Shakedown and should have found something better to do with his life by now.

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