The Strangers 

Suggesting an American remake of David Moreau and Xavier Palud's Them, The Strangers is practically an abstraction: an old-school spooker spun from the blood splatter on a wall, a nearby record player scratching an oldie, a CB radio in the garage, a creaky swing set in the backyard. First-time helmer Bryan Bertino is beholden to genre quota, skidding the relationship of pretty young couple Kristen and James (Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman) before subjecting them to an after-dark home invasion. But he offers no profound rationale for why she refuses his marriage proposal; like the shadowy stranger that comes knocking at their door, it's something that just happens. What's up with the masked ghoulies of the film's title? Why all the door-slamming? Who's Tamara? Plying an analog artistry that begins with a creepy montage of bumblefuck houses and holds up almost without fail until the strangers offer a creepy nonjustification for their transgressions, Bertino teases with the unknown until he has left no pimple ungoosed. Sometimes avoiding the synapse-raping bad habits of splat packers Eli Roth and Alexandre Aja is its own reward; doing so without also submitting to Michael Haneke–style hand-slapping is nearly monumental.

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