Tarantino is probably the benchmark for stunning writer-director debuts with the astonishing Reservoir Dogs in 1992. Bryan Bertino was a teenager at the time but attended film school and was working on low rung jobs in the industry when he wrote his script The Strangers, a home invasion movie where three unknown assailants wearing masks terrorize a couple in an isolated holiday home. Purportedly base on a true story (it wasn’t) it‘s single location stripped down to basics story caught the eye of the studios who took interest – enough to get him an agent. His script was optioned and he was taken on by the studio to polish it only to find himself fired shortly afterwards and his Hollywood dream seemingly at an end and then to get worse as he found it being rewritten beyond recognition.
The Strangers script was looked at by an independent studio Rogue who were less than impressed by this umpteenth rewrite and Bertino’s fortunes turned around when they rehired him wanting his original version. Things got better when talking to the studio head they were so taken by his enthusiasm for the script that they made the decision to hire him to direct too despite him having no previous films or shorts to show whether he was up to the job. He was. The Strangers was a well orchestrated series of uneasy moments and scares and though it has its brutal moments it is arguably more a film of terror than horror as the couple, played by Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman, are persecuted for 90 minutes with a defiantly downbeat ending which is anything but what might be expected from a Hollywood studio.
Costing only $9m dollars it made a huge $82m surprising the studio who had little faith in the film as it had not tested well with preview audiences and the execs didn’t know what to do with the film it with the intention of even sending it straight to DVD which is why we’re looking at its re-release on Blu-Ray.
Released all the way back in 2008 The Strangers is well worth a look if you missed it first time round with moments to make you jump, moments to make you uneasy and moments to make you wince. It’s a testament to Bertino as a director that this is such an effective thriller and rightly did well at the box office. This blu-ray release also has a decent array of bonus features too and for budding writer – directors the featurette, ‘Because You Were Home’ is a lengthy interview with Bryan Bertino about his journey to making his debut. Just as good is an equally lengthy feature with editor Kevin Greutert. Now he may not be a household name but his first feature film as Editor was on the horror juggernaut ‘Saw’. In fact he went on to edit Saw II, III & IV so his pedigree was assured when he was hired for The Strangers and his insight into what make so many of the scenes work so well is absorbing notably with the importance of songs in the film as well as the revelation that a 20 minute portion of the film was cut and how they re-jiggled the film to ratchet up the suspense. There’s also an interview with Laura Margolis who plays Dollface and you get to see the face begin the. Less good is the featurette with Liv Tyler which is as dull and flaky as you might expect and there’s the usual couple of EPK’s from the film’s original dvd release.
Perhaps most disappointing is a lack of directors commentary but also a major missed opportunity is with deleted scenes or more specifically the final scene.
………. SPOILER ALERT……….
Unknown to many is that when Bertino shot the final scene he shot two versions – one as seen in the final cut but another where all three assailant’s take off their masks and it is these scenes we would have liked to see but regrettably are not included here.
Bertino had a hit on his hands and he had a script for a sequel lined up with an intriguing premise. For a number of reasons the script was never produced and instead some ten years later an inferior sequel, ‘The Strangers : Prey at Night’ (whose script he co-wrote) was released but by 2018 the moment had gone. Nonetheless The Strangers is a highly effective film and this blu-ray version is a worthy addition to the scary section of any film library
Here’s The Strangers trailer……..
THE STRANGERS IS RELEASED ON LIMITED EDITION BLU-RAY ON 28 SEPT 2020