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Movie Reviews: The Strangers

Robert Ebert's opening lines of his review of the horror flick The Strangers is something of a classic and will undoubtedly make his devoted readers rejoice that he has recovered sufficiently from his latest round of operations to resume his regular reviewing tasks again. Consider: "My mistake was to read the interview with the director. At the beginning of my review of The Strangers, I typed my star rating instinctively: 'One star.' I was outraged. I wrote: 'What a waste of a perfectly good first act! And what a maddening, nihilistic, infuriating ending!' I was just getting warmed up. And then, I dunno, I looked up the movie on IMDb and there was a link to an interview with Bryan Bertino, the film's writer and director, and I went there, read it and looked at his photo. He looked to be in his 20s. This was his first film. Bertino had been working as a grip on a peanuts-budget movie when he pitched this screenplay to Rogue Pictures and then was asked to direct it. He gave a friend his grip tools and thought: 'Cool, I'm never going to need this anymore! I'm never using a hammer again.' Then he told the interviewer: 'I still had to buy books on how to direct.' So I thought, Bryan Bertino is a kid, this is his first movie, and as much as I hate it, it's a competent movie that shows he has the chops to be a director. So I gave it 1.5 stars instead of one." (Welcome back, Roger!) Other critics are not so generous. Susan Waler writes in the Toronto Star: "With no plot to speak of, no character development whatsoever, no theme and precious little intrigue, what we have here is simply a pileup of effects. And not especially special effects." Rafer Guzman in Newsday says the movie amounts to nothing more than a "disappointing downer." On the other hand, Elizabeth Weitzman in the New York Daily News writes that "Bertino does an excellent job building dread, especially during the first half of the movie. Every silence, pause and sudden noise startles -- and the results, frankly, are more frightening than the graphic torture scenes in movies like Hostel and Saw." And Jeannette Catsoulis in the New York Times calls it a "highly effective chiller"

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