Strangers

There’s a new slasher movie that came out recently called The Strangers: Prey at Night. It’s a sequel to The Strangers, a film that came out 10 years ago. I went to see this new sequel today. Honestly, it wasn’t great. And it was nowhere near as terrifying as the first one.

I really need to rewatch that first movie at some point. Because my memory of how scary it was may actually be a bit skewed. For me, that movie was scary because of my personal context when I was watching it. I didn’t see it in the comfort of a movie theater with dozens of strangers and a sticky floor. I saw it while I was alone in the home of a family for whom I was house sitting.

Let’s go back in time, shall we?

It was 2008. I was living in North Carolina. I had seen trailers for this horror film called The Strangers and, I’ll admit, I was intrigued. But I didn’t see it. See, this was before the advent of the MoviePass, so one needed to be choosy about the movies that one would throw down 12 bucks to see. Sure, I saw the Transformers sequel twice in the theater. But, hey, who among us doesn’t make stupid decisions when we’re in our 20s?

Anyway, I wanted to see The Strangers, but I knew I needed to wait until it was a more reasonable deal. Eventually, that would come to pass when the local Redbox stocked the DVD. My one night rental of this horror film coincided with my friends’ trip to DisneyWorld. I was left behind to take care of the dogs and the cat.

There I am, alone in a fairly large house. I mean, it was no mansion, or anything crazy like that. But it was big enough to comfortably hold a family of seven, so imagine what you will. And while you’re imagining this house, picture a living room with one wall made entirely of windows that stretched, basically, from floor to ceiling. Do you have that picture in your mind? Good.

During the day, one could look out those windows and see this family’s back yard, which stretched maybe 50 or 60 feet to the edge of their property. Beyond that was a small, wooded area. A lovely view when bathed in sunlight.

But at night, when the lights in the house are on and there’s nothing but pitch darkness in those woods? Yeah, fairly creepy. I just got a chill thinking about it.

This is the room in which I watched The Strangers for the first and only time I ever saw it. I watched on a TV that sat directly in front of those windows. As I watched the movie, every little perceived movement that caught my eye made me jump. Maybe there was nothing outside. But maybe there was someone in those woods watching me watching that movie.

Whoa… another chill.

You may be wondering why I’d be so afraid, watching this movie in that situation. Well, maybe not. I mean, what horror movie isn’t just a little more scary when you’re watching it by yourself? But the premise of The Strangers is that, when Liv Tyler is home alone, these three creepy people in creepy masks begin creeping. Sure, her boyfriend comes home and becomes victim number two, but that doesn’t stop me from overidentifying with poor Liv for what feels like the majority of the movie.

The StrangersAnd then, at the end, when the title characters have Liv and Scott Speedman tied to chairs, Liv asks, “Why are you doing this?” The response she gets from the blonde is a very flat, “Because you were home.” Very matter of fact. Like, oh we just got in the truck and drove around looking to terrorize and murder someone and you’re the only ones who had your lights on this late at night.

Maybe what made it a little more frightening were the words that followed the title during the opening credits: “Based on actual events.” Say what now?

Yeah, that’s terrifying. I mean, it’s scary enough to think that a writer could come up with a story about homicidal maniacs like this who basically get their jollies by scaring and stabbing random people without a true motive. But that this kind of thing could conceivably happen in real life? Definitely a good idea to watch this alone in a big house facing a small forest late at night.

But, y’all, I did some digging. It’s not like the creators of this movie read the headline that a couple was murdered by a guy that looked like Scarecrow from Batman Begins and a couple of girls in doll masks. It was loosely based on the Manson family Tate murders from 1969 and a series of break-ins that happened in the director’s neighborhood when he was a kid. I think there’s a bit of artistic liberty taken with the term “based on actual events.”

Yet… here I am… writing this blog post… my roommates aren’t home… so I’m by myself… and there’s a big old empty field behind the house. Who knows who could be wandering around back there, looking into the house whenever the lights come on…

Dang… another chill.

By they way, I kept up my tradition of watching these movies alone. Other than myself, there wasn’t a single soul in that movie theater this afternoon. I was glad I picked a seat at the top in the back row, that way I could keep an eye on both exits… make sure no strangers were coming in to ambush me.

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