We live in the time where horror fans clamor for twists in the end. But I noticed the Filipino moviegoers are still not used to that horror trope and that’s probably why The Strangers had them (or maybe just our crowd) really impressed. But not us! An endless summer marathon of ‘twisty‘ if not mostly M. Night Shyamalan and Korean films made it possible for us to see what might and what was coming before the twist was revealed. That doesn’t mean the twist on this twist-laden film doesn’t work though. Fortunately it does and to be honest it’s really quite clever.
There’s ingenuity in the production value while following the story of a family who goes on a road trip to Murcia. The crisp visuals and the verdant foliage of the setting provided an appealing sight that adds up to the very real and beautiful cinematography of the film. First-person perspective from the ‘aswang’ is also equally impressive.
When a family becomes the center of a horror film it’s going to be hard to see each of them die. But breathe life into a family of unlikable and at times inappropriate characters and you might just want them dead.
There’s the annoying temperamental father (Johnny Revilla) who can’t separate himself from his phone and falters in the delivery of his accented lines; The mother (Cherry Pie Picache) who seems okay with everything, twins (Enrique Gil and Julia Montes) who have love quarrels and an old sarcastic Lolo Pete (Jaime Fabregas). Janice De Belen’s role as a temporary caregiver Paloma and the driver played by Nico Antonio were the only likeable characters yet underutilized. All of the actors are consistently impressive in their acting but Enrique Gil was a standout. Veterans Janice De Belen, Cherry Pie Picache and Jaime Fabregas made the most out of their every presence and the rest were forgettable.
Enchong Dee could have been a standout with his deglamorized character but he was not given enough screen time.
In The Strangers the twist was carefully concealed over the films unpredictable pace. Unfortunately the script gives it away by dropping hints in between the vaguest of lines and metaphors which is a spit in our faces. They made it apparent that there is indeed a twist in the movie that everyone should look out for. And that’s exactly where they went wrong! You see, the biggest cinematic revelations in history worked well because they weren’t built in purpose. These mind-blowing tropes are supposed to come out by surprise even in the most nonsensical of ways and they still work! But once you establish a movie that lets the audience guess, then twists would be of less impact.
The only good thing about it is that the twist didn’t seem forced and contrived when it got there. It was natural and free flowing when the story headed for an action packed near end. The film was really promising with a story that is multifaceted. Perhaps if they introduced the three plot lines (Family, Barrio People and Dolfo’s Story) earlier we would have empathized to Crispin’s (JM De Guzman) grief, we would have known Dolfo (Enchong Dee) better and Patricia (Julia Montes) won’t probably get possessed by Kristen Stewart.
Sadly, The Strangers was just so twist-reliant that it consumed the whole story leaving the most interesting plot elements unexplored.
It also leaves a lot of questions unanswered like – SPOILER ALERT – why are they going to Murcia in the first place? Where is the old lady they hit? And do victims of hit-and-run normally disappear? LOL. What happened to Max and Crispin’s screaming for vengeance? Lastly, the ending was a let down.