Silver Screen Cinema

The Strangers: Chapter 1 Review

Click Here to Join Our Mailing List Button

Follow Us:

Twitter Icon
Facebook Icon
LinkedIn Icon
Goodreads Icon
Photo of Madelaine Petsch

Madelaine Petsch


Rated: PG-13

91 Minutes

Directed by: Renny Harlin

Starring: Madelaine Petsch, Froy Gutierrez


The Strangers: Chapter 1 Poster

Contrary to what you might think, not every successful horror movie becomes a franchise. While Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, and Freddie Krueger have terrorized audiences for decades (and dozens of sequels), the three masked killers in the innovative 2008 film, The Strangers, vanished without a trace from movie screens for ten years. They were permanently dispatched in a 2018 sequel that seemingly ended the potential franchise. But permanent dispatch is rarely permanent in horror films. Rather than invent a hokey premise to bring back his masked killers, Brian Bertino, the original film’s writer/director, has turned that standalone movie into a trilogy. As with similar multi-part productions like Dune, all three movies were shot at the same time. The first film, The Strangers: Chapter 1, is now out in theaters and is essentially a remake of the 2008 original. But director Renny Harlin delivers a competent mix of suspense and Easter egg shout outs to the original. Most viewers will know what’s coming every step of the 

way, but the result is mildly entertaining. Better yet, the filmmakers introduce several intriguing plot hooks that may be resolved in the two remaining movies.

The Strangers: Chapter 1 has been described as a prequel to the original 2008 movie, but its use of social media and improved technology place it today. Maya (Madelaine Petsch) and Ryan (Froy Gutierrez) celebrate their fifth anniversary by taking an extended road trip whose ultimate destination is Portland, OR, where Maya has some job prospects. They aren’t married; they’ve just been happily dating for that entire time. The couple stop for lunch one day in Venus, OR, population 468. The town apparently has only two businesses, a homey diner and a garage. It also has a populace that mostly seems to be rejected cast extras from Deliverance. The curious townsfolk in the restaurant don’t seem to like the fact that Maya and Ryan are happily unmarried or that she’s a vegetarian. They also don’t like Ryan’s somewhat superior attitude.

When the couple returns to their car after lunch, they discover their car won’t start. The mechanic about 20 feet away says it’s the alternator, and he’ll have to order a replacement that won’t arrive until the next day. Ryan and everyone in the audience suspect a scam, but Maya is more mellow. The diner’s server later gives them a lift to the town’s only Airbnb, several miles out in the woods. What follows is a close remake of the events in the 2008 movie.

Ryan and Maya are repeatedly interrupted by a loud knock on the door, following which a shadowy stranger asks if Tamara is there. Ryan soon leaves Maya to return to town to get his asthma inhaler, which he left in his car. (The cabin’s owner conveniently left a motorcycle in the yard Ryan can use.) Soon, the audience sees shadowy figures running around in the house behind Maya. When she takes a shower (because shower scenes are obligatory in horror films), a large man with a burlap sack over his head watches her from just outside the bathroom door. And when Ryan finally returns, the killers reveal themselves to the couple, and the genuine terror begins.

While the killers resemble other iconic horror film killers in some ways (especially the large man (dubbed “Scarecrow”) who wields an ax), they have certain qualities that make them unique. Instead of trying to run up a large body count with a series of gory murders, they delight in tormenting their victims. They leave “souvenirs” of their presence behind. Scarecrow breaks down doors with an ax, then walks away. His two female companions love playing with giant knives. The women also play the piano while Ryan and Maya hide upstairs. But what is most frightening is how purposeless the film’s violence is. There is no motive for the killers’ tormenting and perhaps murdering the couple. When Maya asks one woman why they are tormenting the couple, the killer says: “Because you’re here.”

This sort of arbitrary, sadistic violence made the original movie memorable, and for any audience members who haven’t seen or heard about it, the killers’ methodology here is still chilling. But most audience members seeing The Strangers: Chapter 1 know what’s coming, just like most people watching Psycho know what’s coming when Janet Leigh takes a shower. Further, most of the violence is suggested, not shown, so extreme gore fans will be disappointed (take out the f-bombs, and this movie might have gotten a PG-13 rating). Instead, director Harlin builds suspense by staging the film’s second half as a battle between the two groups. Maya and Ryan prove somewhat resourceful. They aren’t the quivering victims often found in horror movies. Instead, they figure out how to escape the house and arm themselves. They do make some stupid mistakes, although I imagine most people would have difficulty thinking straight when confronted by three psychos with axes and knives. However, Maya and Ryan keep the movie’s ultimate resolution in doubt.

The film’s writers make one wrong decision when the couple runs into the woods in the movie’s last 15 minutes. Earlier, the director generates suspense by keeping all the characters confined to one moderately sized house. When the couple escapes, however, the movie becomes a confusing chase through the woods on a foggy night. However, The Strangers: Chapter 1 has some compensating virtues. Although the killers’ faces are never shown, the film implies they are some of the townspeople Ryan and Maya meet when they first enter Venus. If the film had spent a few more minutes in the diner, the guessing game of the killers’ identities would have been more engaging. The movie also hints more about plot complications in the final two parts of the trilogy.

The Strangers: Chapter 1 is a competent horror film working off a proven template. It lacks the shocking originality of the 2008 movie but compensates in other ways. The lack of graphic kills was a plus for me. When characters are bloodlessly stabbed, viewers are uncertain how badly hurt they are. And the creepy reactions of the townspeople to the couple’s arrival give the movie a bit of a Deliverance vibe. The film hints at expanding the horror beyond the three killers in the sequels, which is intriguing. Judged on its own merits, however, The Strangers: Chapter 1 is a decent but inferior copy of an inspired original.  

In this clip, Madelaine Petsch hears a sinister knock on the cabin door:

Watch Ryan Reynolds on Amazon Prime Video:

The Strangers Streaming
The Strangers: Prey at NIght Streaming
Mockingbird Streaming

Header Photo: "Riot Radio" by Arielle Calderon / Flickr / CC By / Cropped

Silver Screen Cinema Banner Photos:  pedrojperez / Morguefilewintersixfour / Morguefile

Join Button: "Film Element" by Stockphotosforfree

Twitter Icon: "Twitter Icon" by Freepik

Facebook Icon: "Facebook Icon" by Freepik

LinkedIn Icon: "LinkedIn Icon" by Fathema Khanom / Freepik

Goodreads Icon: "Letter G Icon" by arnikahossain / Freepik

Madelaine Petsch: "Ondre with Madelaine Petsch" (cropped) by Anonymous 826 / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY SA 4.0 DEED

Certain images on this site appear courtesy of and other sponsors of Silver Screen Videos for the purpose of advertising products on those sites. Silver Screen Videos earns commissions from purchases on those sites.  


© 2024 Steven R. Silver. All rights reserved.   

Click to Learn More about Network Solutions