“The Strangers”, a thriller released on May 30, 2008 begins with the following lines:
“What you are about to see is inspired by true events. According to the F.B.I. there are an estimated 1.4 million violent crimes in United States of America each year. On the night of February 11, 2005 Kristen McKay and James Hoyt went to a friend’s wedding reception and then returned to the Hoyt family’s summer home. The brutal events that took place there are still not entirely known.”
In order to make the fear factor of the movie more effective, director Bryan Bertino chose an effective method because after all, if this horrific event can happen to this gorgeous young couple, it can happen to anyone. The sadistic and game-like plot of the movie reminded me of Funny Games, the English remake of a 1997 Austrian movie. In The Strangers, when Liv Tyler asks the masked murderers why they were doing this to them, the answer was simply “Because you were home.” The simplicity of the special effects of this movie make it even more eerie and it certainly made me rethink having a summer house in a secluded area away from civilization.
When watching a movie like this, I’m always curious about the reality factor. Was there really a couple who was killed in 2005 in this way? If there was, what happened to the case? When I heard that they were thinking of making a sequel to this movie, which is a mistake of its own, I suspected that although possibly inspired by true events, the murders depicted in this movie were not a single event. Upon doing research, I found out that my suspicions were correct.
According to the director, his main inspiration was the Manson-family murders and the book Helter Skelter. In an interview, Liv Tyler revealed that the original script was a lot more like the Manson murders and the masked murderers had a lot more dialogue with the victims. The script was later altered to give the murderers a more eerie-like quality. The girl coming to the door in the beginning, asking if Tamara is home was inspired by a memory from Bryan Bertino’s childhood. According to Bertino, a stranger came to his home asking for someone who was not there, and Bertino later found out that empty homes in the neighborhood had been broken into that night.
So although there really could’ve been a James Hoyt and a Kristen McKay, they were really just representation of those 1.4 million people who are murdered every year. The movie itself was good in that quiet, hold-your-breath until the mask appears way, though there were a couple of predictable moments (But I won’t spoil them here). As someone who is more scared by reality based thrillers over gore and blood, I give the movie 3.5 stars and recommend that you do not watch it alone if you want to sleep easily at night.