The Strangers: Chapter 1 (2024) Review

By Allison Rose   X Formly Known as Twitter
3 Min Read

While there are a few well-placed jump scares, Harlin relies more on the psychological aspects of being hunted and tied up for no reason to scare the viewer.

The Strangers: Chapter 1 (2024) Review
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Horror movies are meant to scare us. Some, many in fact, use supernatural elements as an explanation for the horrific, bloody, gory things that happen on screen.  The unexplainable is, in and of itself, terrifying because, for most of us, our minds can't comprehend the idea that there is something "otherworldly" out in the universe.  However, perhaps even more terrifying is the idea that there is no explanation.  That human beings can do evil things simply for evil's sake.  That was the premise behind the 2008 film, The Strangers.  This week, director Renny Harlin (Cliffhanger) revisits that concept in the first movie of the new trilogy, The Strangers: Chapter 1.

Maya (Madelaine Petsch; Riverdale) and Ryan (Froy Gutierrez; Hocus Pocus 2) have been dating for 5 years when they decide to take a trip to the West Coast so Maya can interview for a new job in Washington State.  On their way from Chicago, they become hungry and stop in a little town called Venus, Oregon to take a break and eat.  After, their car won't start and the town mechanic offers to rent them a cabin he owns for the night until he can fix their car.  While there, there is a knock on the door and an unseen entity asks for someone who isn't there.  Eventually, three masked strangers break into the cabin and tie up Maya and Ryan, terrorizing and harming the couple for no reason.

Petsch and Gutierrez portray a loving couple well with a decent amount of chemistry.  The terror Petsch displays while being chased and held hostage is believable and Gutierrez does a good job trying to show a false sense of bravado as the boyfriend who is going to "save" his girlfriend. The rest of the cast is, in a word, creepy and this film is an ensemble endeavor.

Harlin has had some ups and downs in his career but this is one of those times that he does a pretty good job developing the tension and fear that Petsch and Gutierrez go through.  While there are a few well-placed jump scares, Harlin relies more on the psychological aspects of being hunted and tied up for no reason at all to scare the viewer.  The utter lack of control and despair is palpable throughout the movie.  The use of the masks the intruders wear and the fact that they barely speak is effective and disturbing.

Since the original script would have been over four and a half hours long on film, the decision was made to create three separate movies.  In theory, it sounds like a smart plan, but throughout the execution of the first movie, it seems a little thin on plot.  It introduces the audience to the characters, the town, and the circumstances behind how Maya and Ryan become essentially stranded but leaves the movie feeling as if it was unfinished with no real sense of satisfaction. Of course, that opens the door for anticipation of what's to come next creating a built-in audience for chapters two and three.

Having never seen the 2008 version, I didn't know what to expect other than having a rough idea of the movie's plot and, while it was smart to shoot the entire script all at the same time for scheduling and budgeting purposes, perhaps Harlin should have thought about two 2-hour movies as opposed to three shorter ones.  Of course, the studio can make more money (hopefully) from 3 films over two.  However, the risk is that the first movie must make audiences want to see the second and the second one must make audiences return once again for the finale.  So far, I'm intrigued to see number two.  Only time will tell if the story can sustain three movies.

Grade: B-

Directed By:
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 91 minutes
Distributed By: Lionsgate

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For more information about The Strangers: Chapter 1 visit the FlickDirect Movie Database. For more reviews by Allison Rose please click here.

The Strangers: Chapter 1 images are courtesy of Lionsgate. All Rights Reserved.

FlickDirect, Allison   Rose

Allison Rose, a Senior Correspondent and Critic at FlickDirect, is a dynamic presence in the entertainment industry with a communications degree from Hofstra University. She brings her film expertise to KRMS News/Talk 97.5 FM and broadcast television, and is recognized as a Tomatometer-Approved Critic. Her role as an adept event moderator in various entertainment industry forums underscores her versatility. Her affiliations with SEFCA, the Florida Film Critics Circle, and the Online Film Critics Society highlight her as an influential figure in film criticism and media.


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