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  • Rev Horror

The Strangers: Chapter 1

Dir. Renny Harlin (2024)

A couple has to spend the night in a remote cabin and are terrorized by three strangers.

Directed by Reny Harlin (Cliffhanger) and starring Madelaine Petsch (Riverdale) as Maya and Ryan Brown (Benefited) as Jeff.

We start out with a couple, Maya and Jeff, who are traveling cross-country because it's their five-year dating anniversary, and Maya has taken a job in Portland, Oregon. They get turned around along the way and stop at a small-town diner to get some food and ask for directions. Immediately, the film makes you feel uneasy. All the patrons in the diner seem, shall we say, off-putting and less than friendly (I see you, Richard Brake!). It gave me Twin Peaks vibes, to be honest. When they go to get back on the road, their car won't start. After Jeff tries a few more times, a local mechanic who has a garage next door offers to take a look. He tells him the car has a bad alternator and he can't get a new one until the next day. After asking about a motel, they're informed that the only lodging in town is an Air B&B in the middle of nowhere.

And so, our story is off and running. And even though I knew what was coming, I still enjoyed the ride. Both actors did a great job, but Madelaine was the standout as Maya. Let's be honest, Liv Tyler is no Meryl Streep, and for her part, Madelaine played it well. It also had good production value and great camera work. The angles to get some of the shots of the strangers lurking in the background were spot on. But, I've also seen a lot of hate on this one, with mostly the same argument, and I just don't see it.

Anyone who's seen the original The Strangers (and who hasn't) knows the plot and premise of this film. The people behind the film have made it known that this was a remake that stuck very close to the source material, and it does. All the negative reviews I've seen say as much, that it's too much like the original. And yet, we readily accept the original and say that even though this is almost identical, we don't like it. Well, I disagree. There's something intensely unnerving about someone being in your home while you're unaware. I think that works in pretty much any film. And, also, like the original, we, the audience, are aware of the strangers' presence in the house, but Maya is not. The fact that they basically fuck with her while Jeff's away is still delightful.

It's like a cat batting around a mouse before eating it and really lends itself to show you these are human predators. If you put that in any situation besides one we've seen before, it works. And since I was going into it with a mindset of "this is a remake that sticks close to the material," I liked it. I've been saying since it was announced that I'm most curious to see where it goes in chapters 2 and 3 because that's when the story changes. And in the parts,they changed in this one, mostly in the opening, they gave us a colorful cast of eerie townsfolk I have a feeling will play into the next two chapters. (Again, looking right at you, Richard Brake!)

Look, like you, I never expected a remake of The Strangers. I don't think it was necessary, but I just watch movies. What do I know? I think if you're gonna do it, and do it respectfully to the original, I don't think you could have done any better. You changed up just enough but left iconic moments from the original almost exactly the same. I compare it to the sorta recent film Malum, which was a remake of Last Shift. Exact same situation, and I enjoyed that one as well. It's definitely worth a watch. At least once. I wouldn't let all the bad reviews keep you from checking it out. It's a mindless popcorn fodder film, and for me, that's perfect.

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