Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
The Strangers (2008)
Everyone must have seen the trailers by now, and they're selling the film to us good, but after that 30 second promise it just doesn't quite come through with the goods. It's been a while since I've had a good solid scare that has haunted me afterwards and this film held the promise, the psychological terror of a motiveless attack, the thought that one day you could be picked out for no reason and destroyed by, well, a stranger...
The film starts on nicely false terms, throw in a semi-scary (unverified) statistic and the concept of this being a true story (actually not a true story, though similar crimes have happened) and we're all set in the belief that some bad stuff is about to go down to some people. We start with a flash forward (to the end), a slightly cheesy 911 call, then back to the present, then a little later there's a slight flash forward then back to the present - simply put it just hops a little needlessly at the beginning, it's not some big revelation that the whole story (story?) hinges on, they just seemed to feel like doing it a few times at the start and then never touch it again.
There's way too much build up at the start, everything moves very sluggishly and given that we already know what's going to happen it's quite easy to disengage yourself for about twenty minutes until there's the knock at the door that signifies the real start of the movie. The romance/proposal subplot (subplot?) appears to be there to give the characters some life, and issues, before someone comes along and gives them new issues with an axe. I know some viewers will go into it and pay avid attention to every murmured line at the outset, but seasoned horror-goers will see it for the filler it is. We know this is the bit where we're supposed to start caring for them, so when it hits the fan we'll root for them.
So we get the knock and the spooky whispering begins. If you're saying something intimidating it must be in a breathy murmur, clearly. I kind of liked how it was made clear from the woman at the door (and that strangely dodgy light bulb) that we weren't going to be seeing any faces of the Strangers. It was more amusing than foreboding but it sort of set the status quo for the rest of the film - this won't be entering any new territory.
OK, credit where it's due I loved the use of music here, particularly at the start where it helped build up to that knock quite nicely. Often I found that if I covered my ears though, and just watched a) I didn't miss anything, and b) the little bit of spook was gone. I did also enjoy the slightly arty feel of the film (art student, can't help it!), it was very pretty to look at at times, in a slightly twee setting with hazy colours and nice use of lighting and shadows, but the shots of the film just felt so full of the cliché (oh look, her phone is on the fire they can't call for help now...) that it didn't make up for much.
I understand what some others have said about the Strangers drifting like ghosts, they really didn't seem to actually be there except to walk around behind people. Ditto the fact that the couple just run or limp) around and around, I know it probably wouldn't have guaranteed survival but had they chosen a direction to run in and stuck with it they could have run all the way to civilisation the amount of faffing they did. And once the Strangers appeared all interaction between this struggling couple was reduced to 'run!' and 'hide!' or 'get inside!', the conflict brought in for them at the outset practically forgotten.
Another thing often mentioned is the varying opinions on the amount of blood. The blood here is fairly irrational, while you can explain for the half destroyed state of the house (which the couple probably damaged just as much as the outsiders in between their Starsky and Hutch "behind the boxes with a gun"...) by the end there seems to be a fair amount of blood for very few actual wounds. Not to mention the fantastic near bloodless stabbings. In a horror it's a bad sign if you can't remember whether or not there was blood on the knife as they were being killed. And wasn't that just such a calm and clear-headed stabbing. No vicious frenzy, no violence or sense of madness or thrill for the Strangers after all that pursuit. It felt like after all that running even they couldn't be bothered with it anymore.
And the ending? Eh, the ending was just mostly unnecessary. When it's daylight it's less scary, especially when you know the strangers are now unmasked and 'normal' (as in still doing the breathy murmur to spook small children). Then one final scare and fin. Why? Just because.
I just left it feeling underwhelmed. I'll write this and just forget I ever saw the film, which feels like a shame. I wanted to be terrified and it just didn't happen. Casual horror/movie folk may like it, but if you've been around the block a bit I don't know, it doesn't bring anything fresh in a genre already filled with the same story but different - and probably better...
More depressing than scary, and not worth 2 hours...
I fully anticipate some hate in my direction, as some people have really taken to this film, but I have to say that it has just never done anything for me. I first watched it a couple of years ago and I had to force myself to finish it, for the sake of finishing it, but I was overwhelmingly bored. I returned to it again this afternoon (with a little bit of an older head on my shoulders :)) and I feel I can sort of offer a little more than 'boredom' as a comment.
I think you have to start off be coming to this film with the right preconceptions, or at least not the wrong ones. It doesn't fit the same 'type' of J-Film as the Grudge or Ring, there are deaths but it's not some vengeful she-ghost hunting you for eternity, this film tries to utilise a different sort of 'horror', on a more emotional or psychological level by focusing on very everyday human fears such as death, the afterlife, and loneliness.
It's interesting to see how (although much of the technology in the film is now very dated) some of the comments on it - such as those about how the internet doesn't really connect people - are still quite valid. But one of the problems I came to realise that I had with the film is that its message of an isolated world, with people ultimately being unable to face existing alone any more, felt too forced. It was alluded to or actually stated by the characters quite repeatedly, it was unmistakable what they were trying to 'say', and the more they said it the more depressed I felt.
I wasn't scared by the thought, I wasn't horrified or disturbed I just felt a bit blue. Watching the world become less and less populated just felt a little too unbelievable, I felt I was watching a film taking place in some kind of parallel Earth, I felt distanced from it and that distance just sort of numbed the impact.
One of the things I did like were the two separate stories playing alongside each other, and the meeting up, but I felt that the male student's story was far more engaging than the co-workers, they never seemed to progress in the story, they just kept dropping out one by one until the requisite one was left behind.
I also have to agree that some of the film is beautifully shot, but to balance it there are also lots of grey scenes (some of which are quite hard to see), intended I think to add to the isolated, cold, world, but it's not really enough to break up the film or to keep it visually exciting. You can only sit and watch people having conversations, or wandering around unhappily, for so long. The use of music is very good, actually lifting up some scenes and making them quite memorable (I'm thinking of the jumping woman, for those who have seen it). But there seem to be quite long periods without it, or where it isn't used to contribute at all.
I'm not saying that this is a horrible film, but I'm trying to balance out that it won't suit some people. Rent it first if possible, this isn't the kind of J-Horror film (can we call it horror?) that all films seem to be marketed as at the moment, it really might work for you, but it just didn't have the effect on me that it seems to have done on others here.
Batoru rowaiaru (2000)
Like Marmite. Love it. Hate it. But realise there's more to this than gore.
I've tried to look into both sides of the argument. Those on IMDb who loved it, and those who hated it and feel they are doing people a favour by warning them away.
Do yourself a favour and just see it. Stomach the gore, the bore if you feel that, and just see someones interpretation of the dark side of human nature.
I am the same age now (01/06) as the students are in this film, and I can imagine no more horrific scenario than the one they find themselves in. In a nutshell, 40 students (a whole class) are chosen by a 'lottery' to participate in Battle Royale (which even appears to be treated with the same media attention as Big Brother). Told they're going on a school trip they get on a coach, get gassed en route, and wake up on an island to come face to face with their old teacher (who they harassed, and even stabbed) who cheerfully welcomes them to Battle Royale and a waking nightmare.
Could you kill your best friend? Even if you'd all die if one person wasn't left standing after three days? Some people question the believability of the 'BR Act'. Quite frankly, how can you not believe in it? Even not knowing the state of children in Japan I know that in England we have such yobs it's a wonder no one has suggested our own BR Act yet.
As for the acting, OK, there are wooden moments (maybe it's even due to poor subtitles... i always feel sorry that I haven't grasped Japanese when i see these films) and the number of 'deathbed confessions' as i called them is enough to make it worthy of a drinking game. The teacher Kitano is a joy to watch (even if my favourite character has to be the 'benki-girl presenter' on the Battle Royale introduction video) Another criticism i saw was the use of classical music at certain points. What's the point? People ask. Here's the point, i say.
It's unnerving. Here's a class of hysterical, terrified, teenagers being faced with a) the demand to kill each other and b)a teacher who is, quite frankly, nuts. There is no hope in hell of reasoning with him. I feel the music fits with this. What else suggests insanity but giving off the list of the mornings dead to some Chopin number, or a waltz? The kids are forced to show their true colours, political statements aside this is all about humans. We get paranoid. We turn on each other, every man for himself. Some fight, some hide. Friends turn on each other. Cliques fall apart.
It makes for both gripping, exciting, enjoyable and horrifying watching. You question why you want to watch it but you can't stop. And you can't help but think...
What would I do?
And then after I went into school and looked at the students around me.
Perhaps it was more frightening to dwell on what would they do...
Let's bring in the view of an Englander NOT obsessed with Michael Jackson....
Reading through some other reviews here I felt a dire need to write one of my own.
I went into an afternoon showing of this film with a group of friends whose ages ranged from 16 to 10, we were in a cinema packed to bursting with small children (think 5 or 6 years old) who had dragged along their parents. And the whole way through we were all laughing.
This wasn't a children's film that the parents had to suffer through, and it wasn't so childish that teenagers wanted to vomit. It was the classic tale we all know and love, only slightly modernised to reflect todays children.
I'll tackle the children first, while some remained completely faithful to their book roots (August Gloop, particularly) it was good to see that some had changed slightly to reflect how children are today (such as Mike Teevee who is obsessed with TV and violence, and Violet whose mother is constantly encouraging her to be competitive and a 'winner') These kinds of children are commonplace these days, we've all met at least one, and it helps the viewer to slide into the film with ease.
Johnny Depps' acting was inspired. It angers me to see so many people instantly seeing his performance as based on Michael Jackson when it quite plainly isn't. Perhaps the American medias obsession with Jackson in recent months is to blame for this. But what I saw when i first saw Depps' Wonka was a recluse, scared and uncertain of how to be around people. He needs prompt cards to introduce himself.
His detachment from the world makes him seem weird, quirky even, but it's good because the space he keeps between himself and others is the exact opposite of what Charlie teaches us, that we need our families, we need others in our lives, which is an important lesson for todays children who have become increasingly 'memememe'.
Burton has done another stunning job, visually. The colours of the chocolate factory are stunning, and you can feel that you've entered a world of imagination and left the, literally, grey outside world far behind.
As always Elfmans music is a joy, and reflects the quirkiness of Burtons' vision. The 'Welcome' song is hysterical and instantly you find that while you may know the story, you have no idea as to what's about to hit you. The Oompa-Loompas songs are, unfortunately, very hard to hear over the roar of the music which is a damn shame, but the dance moves alone will have you in hysterics.
It was refreshing to find things added into this film that we didn't see in Wilders' version or in the book. I particularly loved seeing how Wonka found the Oompa-Loompas.
While i was a little surprised to be shown flashbacks of Wonkas childhood throughout, i quickly accepted it, and found it interesting as it lead to another important message that todays' children should always remember, that sometimes parents stop you from doing things because they actually love you, not because they hate you, and that they just want what's best for you.
This film was a joy to sit through, i hung on every word, silently urging the characters on so i could see what was going to happen next, hear what was going to be said. I had to know, even though i already knew the ending.
This is the kind of film children should be watching today. This is what a summer movie should be. This is what happens when Burton/Depp/Elfman deliver.
Roll on Corpse Bride...