Keith’s Movie Korner: Close the book on ‘The Strangers: Chapter 1’

By Keith Walther | Rose Law Group Reporter

The horror genre is rife with franchises that have overstayed their welcome, and this is a franchise that was never asked for in the first place. “The Strangers: Chapter 1” unfortunately means there will be follow up chapters. In fact, the trilogy was filmed simultaneously over a 52-day period, which should speak volumes about the commitment to quality or lack thereof. Obvious, contrived, and predictable scenarios mixed with easily noticeable filmmaking errors make this movie audiences are better off steering clear of and remaining strangers.

Maya (Madelaine Petsch) and Ryan (Froy Gutierrez) are a young couple on a road trip to begin their new life together in Oregon. Not so shockingly, their relatively new car breaks down in a very small town, forcing them to spend the night at a remote cabin in the woods while they wait for the local repairman to fix their vehicle. As every horror film ever made will reveal, nothing good ever happens in a secluded cabin in the middle of nowhere.

Sure enough, three masked people begin to terrorize the hapless couple, methodically hunting them and toying with them in order to fill the hour and a half runtime. As the cat and mouse routine plays out in the cabin and surrounding woodland in typical fashion, Maya and Ryan must find a way to either escape or stand and fight.

“The Strangers: Chapter 1” plays out like a Geico commercial, with the potential victims having zero survival instinct and making a series of stereotypical bad choices leading them from one kill zone to another. Renny Harlin is a veteran director who has toiled in the land of mediocrity or below his entire career with a filmography that reads like a criminal record (“Cutthroat Island,” “Deep Blue Sea,” “Driven”). This film ranks as one of his worst. To call this horror movie a reboot of “The Strangers” from 2008 would not be entirely accurate. It’s almost a direct copy of that original film with very minor changes. This is filmmaking laziness at its worst, and Renny Harlin didn’t even consult the director of that original film, making it feel like a dirty plagiaristic affront.

Harlin generates cheap thrills through the use of sound and closeups that quickly fade when viewers realize they’ve seen it all before and there’s no real mystery of the inevitable outcomes. He is hasty and careless in his filmmaking approach, resulting in multiple inexcusable errors that further erode the shoddy production. Then he includes a moment in the climax that is clearly included for shock value only and contradicts the mentality of the male murderer.

The two stars of this film may be inexperienced, but they are certainly not to blame for this poorly written screenplay. Madelaine Petsch and Froy Gutierrez performed their jobs well, even if those jobs meant behaving as cliched as have ever been seen in a horror movie, making one bonehead mistake after another. Despite this and the complete lack of character development written for them, they still manage to create enough believable chemistry and natural reactions to be considered as the only bright spots of an otherwise horrendous film.

As a cheap rip-off of the original, “The Strangers: Chapter 1” is an undeniable, shameless money grab that will still likely make a profit because of the low budget, thereby excusing its existence. Save your time and money and watch the original instead, it’s basically the same movie but exceedingly better. What’s truly scary is that the next two chapters are already done and will be released soon.

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May 2024