Wednesday, January 14, 2009
The true measure of how scary a horror movie is, is how it sticks with you. Friday the 13th movies eventually became something of a joke (a joke I still enjoy), but even so I can't help but think of a hockey mask wearing psycho if I'm by a lake at night (this does not happen often, maybe because Jason Voorhies ruined lakes for me. Or I'm not "outdoorsy.") The Blair Witch Project was a polarizing film- viewers appreciated that it left a lot to the imagination...or they had no imagination (their childhoods must have sucked).
The Strangers did not stick with me. Immediately after watching the film, I walked home over a mile on a cold, winter night, at 4 in the morning, not seeing a single soul. Even Signs had me freaked out the night I saw it. Being an M. Night Shyamalamadingdong movie, it falls apart on repeated viewings. The image of of the alien fingers reaching under doorways still stuck with me enough that I avoided looking at doors for the rest of the night, and literally had to jump into my bed, the way I would have done after a nightmare when I was six years old. So...I am not tough.
On my walk alone, in the middle of the night, through sketchy backroads immediately after watching this movie, I should have been envisioning people in a suit and a hood or maternity dresses and weird cupie-doll masks. I have an overactive imagination, but even my delusional brain can't make those things scary. The hood was a too-tailored, Hollywood-ized version of what Jason Voorhies wore in Friday the 13th II. In the few scenes it is shown out of focus, in the background, it was admittedly somewhat offputting. The girls wearing doll masks and hippie clothes were never scary. And I think dolls and hippies are scary, so go figure.
Most of the time, the villains are making lame attempts at taunting the couple played by Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman. I would delve into their story and characters, but their story is boring and, what characters? Both are decent actors, but they don't have much to do here. It could have been a silent film, the dialogue was so forgettable.
The lurky figures in the background lingered too long and lost their effect. They spend most of the film standing around or slowly stalking the young couple, only to suddenly disappear. Jason was famous for his disappearing act, but you knew if he took off, he was killing someone more expendable. By the end of this movie, only 3 people die, and the three killers are responsible for only 2 deaths. First of all, that is a terrible murdering average. Second, the death they are not responsible for is the only dramatic or suspenseful one. Scary villains? They are about as scary as the bumbling trio of fools from Superman III, but nobody turns into a robot.
Note: this movie is not even 90 minutes long, but it will fill like 2 hours plus. It is also misleadingly "based on a true story." The story stems from an incident in which a stranger came knocking on director Bryan Bertino's door as child, and later he found out houses had been broken into. The rest is based on the Manson family. I would call that remotely based on a true story.
Rating: 3 out of 7