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A view from the Blu (-ray) on DVDBeaver by Leonard Norwitz


A Little Background     Openers     


    Modus Operandi     The Scorecard:     

Emotive Connection      Audio     Operations    Extras     The Movie     Equipment




The Strangers (Unrated) [Blu-ray]


(Bryan Bertino, 2008)






Review by Leonard Norwitz



Theatrical: Rogue Pictures & Intrepid Pictures

Blu-ray: Universal Studios Home Entertainment



Region: A

Runtime: 91 (unrated) or 85 minutes (theatrical)

Chapters: 18

Size: 25 GB

Case: Standard Amaray Blu-ray case with slipcover

Release date: October 21st, 2008



Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: VC-1



English 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio. Dub: Spanish & French DTS 5.1



English, English SDH, Spanish & French



• Theatrical & Unrated Versions

• Featurette: The Elements of Terror (9:13)

• Deleted Scenes (4:51)



The Movie: 2
The Strangers has one thing going for it: Some really cool and scary door and wall banging noises.

The movie begins with the following disclaimer: "What you are about to see is inspired by true events." For the rest: think your basic home invasion story a la In Cold Blood or Helter Skelter, but without one tenth their insight or much of anything else. Kristen (Liv Tyler) and James (Scott Speedman) are coming home to his father's house after a late party where occurred an unsuccessful proposal by James. After fits and starts and apologies and understandings and the beginning of something like intimacy, there's a knock at the door. Not an inquiring knock, but an insistent, demanding knock that spells: Don't answer this. It's 4 in the morning, Dufus. You're just beginning to make some sort of rapprochement here and if you open this door I, and everyone in the audience, will lose all respect for your intelligence – unless, of course, James, you're in on this.

If you're anything like me, I always have a little voice in my head providing critical commentary in any scary movie. I start keeping score: Would I have done what these guys do in response to this or that threat? I try to handicap myself by acknowledging that a serious threat, like becoming president, lowers one's intelligence by at least 30 points by default. In this case, the threats escalate gradually but unmistakably, offering Kristin and James chances at making sensible or more protective choices, once they've made their initial mistake by opening the door the first time. The surprise is that, while they never did what I think I would have done from the first moment (turn off the lights inside the house), they aren't entirely stupid at every turn. In any case, the deck is stacked against them.



Image: 6/8
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

The image here is on the soft side, but not without reasonable resolution. The lighting varies from ordinary incandescent indoors to dark woods. The blacks, especially outdoors have a little light in them as they might naturally. There's no in a feeble attempt to brighten the scene and very little noise.















Audio & Music: 9/6
The uncompressed 5.1 DTS MA audio mix is really the third protagonist in this little fright caper. I've already noted how effective the door and wall banging is. Add to that, some window crashes and gunshots and this turns into one dynamite audio effects track. Sometimes, the effects are simple locator door bangings, but just when you think this is all there is to it – which is just another way of fooling yourself into thinking there's a way out of this danger – the noises envelop you like the whole house is shaking in fear, like an earthquake in a skyscraper. This effect is used sparingly and is one of the few very nice things about the film as a whole. I deducted a point for the mumbling dialog track.




Operations: 8
I've been neglecting to mention one of the most laudatory things about Universal Blu-rays: the absence of promos and previews. We're at the menu before you can get comfortable in your seat. The menu is laid out like other Universal Blu-rays – very cleverly laid out, indeed. I like the arrows that tell you which way to direct you remote. No U-Control on this one, but there is a shot at BD-Live if you have what it takes.


Extras: 3
The Extra Features are pretty slim in the pickins here, not that I wished for more. The Elements of Terror is a bit self-inflated as a title, but it does offer us a peak at how the audio effects were managed, as well as a visit to the set, and Ms Tyler's reactions to being asked to act. . . I'm sorry, I mean to act like she's being terrorized.



Bottom line: 3
Almost straight to video, the movie was released only four and a half months earlier – and not to any critical acclaim. I have to admit the effects soundtrack is demonstration stuff, and a purchase for that reason ought not be snickered at.

Leonard Norwitz
October 4th, 2008










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