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Review: The Strangers: Chapter 1 (2024)

The Strangers: Chapter 1 (2024)

Directed by: Renny Harlin

Premise: A remake of the 2008 film and the first part of an intended trilogy. A couple (Madelaine Petsch and Froy Gutierrez) spend a night in an isolated cabin. They are attacked by three killers wearing masks.

What Works: Madelaine Petsch and Froy Gutierrez are likable and convincing as the central couple. The script doesn’t do the actors any favors but Petsch and Gutierrez do what they can to give the characters some life and they come across credibly frightened.

What Doesn’t: 2008’s The Strangers was not a great movie but it succeeded as a nihilistic home invasion story. The very point of the film was the gratuity of the violence; the killers target this couple simply because they are home. That might work for a one-off movie but that premise doesn’t support a trilogy. Trying to build a franchise or a larger story on The Strangers misses the essence of the original story and what made the concept interesting in the first place. 2024’s The Strangers: Chapter 1 is a remake of the original The Strangers and it is inferior in every way. The couple of the 2008 film were more interesting and their relationship had a little more depth. Despite the efforts of actors Madelaine Petsch and Froy Gutierrez, the couple of the remake are not interesting. They are basically happy and conflict free; everything about them is obvious and there is no tension or complexity to their relationship. The original The Strangers was frightening and effectively built tension as the killers gradually close in on the couple. That film had a palpable sense of doom. The remake is not frightening at all. The few images that convey threat or atmosphere are lifted directly from the original picture. The filmmakers of the remake do not set up and execute scenes in a way that draws out the tension. That’s partly a problem of blocking and pacing; too much is revealed too soon. The killers are seen in full view instead of being revealed gradually. The cinematography is notably poor. The lighting does not build atmosphere. A horror picture like The Strangers depends on creating an organic look that gives the violence its credibility. The digital imagery of the Strangers remake often looks plastic and unreal especially the faces of the actors which are so purged of detail that these living people look artificial.

Bottom Line: The Strangers: Chapter 1 is not interesting as a prequel, a remake, or a standalone movie. It fails to establish a premise that will generate interest in subsequent movies and it’s a lame echo of the original picture.

Episode: #998 (June 2, 2024)