Match Frame

Thoughts from an American editor and filmmaker in New Zealand about film and video production and post-production. Plus whatever else I feel like talking about.

Location: Balmoral, Auckland, New Zealand

A work in progress.

Sunday, September 07, 2008


Okay, that's more like it. One of the best horror movies I've seen in a long time, so consistently tense and single-minded that I'm willing to overlook its few flaws.

(Those flaws, btw: one horrible lapse of judgment by the protagonists in the middle of the film; a few too many shots of the antagonists designed to scare the viewer rather than the antagonist; two unnecessary jump scares; a few scenes in the middle where the editing loses all sense of spatial integrity.)

(For those who are wondering what I'm talking about with that last point - where the heck is the swing set that Liv Tyler sees in the back yard when she's out there, and how far is it relative to her? I can't answer that question.)

But I come not to dwell on the flaws, but to praise it. THE STRANGERS is somewhat similar to a recent French film called ILS (THEM), which also works the home invasion by mysterious antagonists angle, and as such it's similar enough to make the differences noteworthy. By my lights THE STRANGERS comes out on top. Instead of opening with a completely unrelated scary scene to goose the tension, we open on our protagonists, and spend a good twenty minutes with them and the horrible emotional wreck of a situation that they're in. This also leads some ambiguity to the antagonists' ultimate motives which was lacking in ILS.

As the situation unfurls, many of the shots and scares unfold not in overedited quickness, but in nice lingering wide shots. Not all of them, but enough that you're being scared by the situation rather than a quick cut and a loud banging sound effect. (Which is not to say those scares don't exist in ILS; they're just not as primal.)

Don't want to go on too much more. Suffice it to say that it's a good horror, more tense and scary than bloody (it's R-rated, but I've seen episodes of CSI that were harder to stomach). If it had something on its mind thematically it might be a great overall movie; as it is, it's merely a very effective genre piece; "merely", of course, being something that Hollywood is virtually never able to accomplish.

(And as an aside, I've never liked Liv Tyler in a movie before this, so if you share my feelings about her as an actress, don't let that dissuade you.)


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