The Strangers (2008 film)
2008 horror film by Bryan Bertino
The Strangers is a 2008 American psychological horror film written and directed by Bryan Bertino. The plot follows Kristen (Liv Tyler) and James (Scott Speedman) whose stay at a vacation home is disrupted by three masked criminals who infiltrate the home. The screenplay was inspired by two real-life events: the multiple-homicide Manson familyTate murders and a series of break-ins that occurred in Bertino's neighborhood as a child. Some journalists noted similarities between the film and the Keddie cabin murders that occurred in Keddie, California in 1981, though Bertino did not cite this as a reference.
Made on a budget of $9 million, the film was shot on location in rural South Carolina in the fall of 2006. Originally slated for a theatrical release in November 2007, it was postponed before a theatrical release on May 30, 2008. The film became a sleeper hit, grossing $82 million at the box office worldwide. It received mixed reviews from critics, with some praising its atmosphere and tension, and others criticizing its script and characters.
Contemporary film scholars have interpreted it as a criticism of the perceived safety of pastoral life, as well as an exploration of stranger-on-stranger violence. In the years since its release, it has become a cult film. A sequel, titled The Strangers: Prey at Night, was released on March 9, 2018.
In a secluded area, away from civilization, James Hoyt and Kristen McKay arrive at night to James' childhood summer home, returning from a friend's wedding. Tension abounds between the couple, as Kristen rejected James's marriage proposal to her after the reception. James calls his friend Mike and asks him to pick him up in the morning. Shortly after 4:00 a.m., there is a loud knock at the door. A young blonde woman, whose face is obstructed by poor lighting, asks the couple "Is Tamara here?" but is turned away by James. James goes for a drive to purchase a pack of cigarettes for Kristen; before he departs, he starts a fire in the hearth. While waiting for him to return Kristen hears another knock on the door, but doesn't open it. Upon asking who it is she finds out its the same girl from earlier asking for Tamara, whereas Kristens reminds her she already came by and locks the door as the mysterious girl walks away. Kristen realizes the chimney flue is closed, and attempts to open it; smoke emanating from the fire triggers a smoke alarm. Kristen attempts to disarm the alarm when she is startled by another knock at the door and drops the alarm on the floor, unnerved. She calls James' cellphone from the landline, but their call is cut short. Kristen returns to the kitchen, where, unbeknownst to her, an intruder watches her, lingering in the adjacent hallway.
Kristen notices the smoke alarm she left on the floor is now sitting on a chair, and realizes someone has been in the house. Upon going to retrieve her cell phone from the charger, she finds it is missing and begins to panic. When she hears a noise from the backyard, she arms herself with a knife, and opens the curtains to find the masked man staring at her. Screaming, she stumbles into the hallway and watches as the front door is forced ajar. When she goes to push the door closed, the blonde woman, now in a doll-like mask, peers inside. After locking the door, Kristen retreats to the bedroom, where she hears a loud crash, before James returns. After she explains what has happened, he goes outside to the car to obtain his phone, whereupon he finds the car ransacked and vandalized, and sees the masked blonde woman watching him from afar. The couple attempt to leave in James' car but another masked brunette woman rear-ends them in a pickup truck, forcing them to flee.
Back inside the house, Kristen and James find a shotgun and wait for the thugs in a bedroom. Mike arrives and realizes something is wrong after seeing James's vandalized car. He enters the house, and James, mistaking him for one of the intruders, shoots him dead. Devastated, James remembers an old radio transmitter in a barn on the property. He leaves and encounters the brunette woman, searching the backyard with a flashlight. When James tries to shoot her, the masked man ambushes him and knocks him unconscious, inadvertently discharging the rifle. Kristen hears the shot and runs to the barn. She finds the radio, but the brunette woman smashes it with an axe. Kristen rushes back to the house where she encounters the blonde woman, who taunts her with a knife. She tries to escape but is incapacitated by the masked man. At dawn, the couple awaken to find themselves tied to chairs in the living room with the thugs standing before them. Kristen attempts to reason with the thugs, before demanding an explanation, to which the blonde woman replies, "Because you were home."
The offenders unmask themselves to Kristen and James before taking turns stabbing them in the chest and abdomen. Afterwards, the thugs drive away in their truck and come across two young boys on bicycles distributing religious tracts. The blonde woman steps out of the truck and asks if she can have one of their tract cards. One of the boys asks her, "Are you a sinner?" to which she responds, "Sometimes." The boy gives her one, and the strangers drive away as the brunette woman states, "It'll be easier next time." The two boys come upon the house, where they discover the bloodied bodies of Kristen, James, and Mike inside. One of the boys approaches Kristen's body and attempts to touch it. As he reaches out to her, Kristen, still alive, startles him by grabbing his hand and screaming.
Film scholar Kevin Wetmore noted the film's portrayal of violence as a reflection of its contemporary culture, writing: "Death is a random act in post-9/11 horror—the result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, as the cliché goes. Unlike in eighties slasher horror, for example, where engaging in negative behavior such as drinking, doing drugs, having premarital sex are often forerunners to being killed by the killer(s); [here], death is random and unrelated to one's behavior."
In The Horror Show Guide: The Ultimate Frightfest of Movies, Mike Mayo noted the film's "grim realism," writing that the main characters "could have wandered out of a gloomy Ingmar Bergman film," ultimately branding the film as an example of "naturalistic domestic horror" akin to Michael Haneke's Funny Games.
The film has also been noted by scholar Philip Simpson as highlighting "the divide between the underprivileged and privileged classes," as well as for its inversion of commonly-held beliefs about violence in urban areas and pastoral ethics: "The Strangers, as many horror films do ... undermines the conventional notion of rural society as a simpler, crime-free place. One might call the narrative sensibility informing The Strangers 'pastoral paranoia', in that danger lurks among the rough folk of the country rather than the suburbs and cities. Of course, it may be that provincial violence is a result of contamination, or in other words that the kind of stranger-upon-stranger violence typically associated with urban life metastasizes to the rural, a phenomenon noted by Louis Wirth."
In his book Hearths of Darkness: The Family in the American Horror Film (2014), scholar Tony Williams notes the film's setting within a 1970s-era home as representative of an "American tradition of violence that is random and without any coherent explanation." Additionally, Williams reads the three masked assailants as metaphors for the "repressed and unresolved tensions affecting the couple inside the house."
Screenplay and inspiration
I was thinking about the Tate murders and realizing that these detailed descriptions had painted a story of what it was like in the house with the victims. But none of the victims knew about the Manson family or why it was happening to them. So, I got really fascinated with telling the victims' tale. And not filling it in with an FBI profile and not filling it in with finding out that somebody's grandmother beat them and now they want to kill everybody. You read obituaries every day where someone is killed for a random reason. Yes, we may eventually find out why, but sometimes they don't.
Bryan Bertino, on his inspiration for the film.
Writer-director Bryan Bertino wrote the screenplay which was originally titled The Faces; it was the third screenplay he had ever written. Bertino had a particular interest in the horror genre, noting how one can connect to an audience by scaring them, and would state in subsequent interviews that he grew up watching horror films. In particular, he stated he was significantly inspired by thriller films of the 1970s while writing the screenplay, and envisioned a film that "put the audience in the world of the victims."
According to production notes and subsequent interviews, the film was inspired by true events from Bertino's childhood: Bertino explains:
As a kid, I lived in a house on a street in the middle of nowhere. One night, while our parents were out, somebody knocked on the front door and my little sister answered it. At the door were some people asking for somebody who didn't live there. We later found out that these people were knocking on doors in the area and, if no one was home, breaking into the houses.
In interviews, Bertino stated he was "very impressed" with some of the theories circulating on the Internet about the "true events" the movie is allegedly based on, but said that his main inspiration was the true crime book Helter Skelter, which is about the Manson Family murders; some journalists speculated that the film was also inspired by the unsolved Keddie Cabin Murders of 1981 that occurred in a small vacation community in California's Sierra Nevada. The film's premise has been compared by some film critics to the French horror film Them, released two years earlier, which also features a couple terrorized by strangers in their remote home.
Bertino entered the screenplay for The Strangers into a screenwriting contest, after which he sold its directorial rights to Universal Pictures.
When casting the two leading actors in the film, Bertino sought Liv Tyler for the role of Kristen. Tyler, who had not worked for several years after the birth of her son, accepted the part after being impressed by the script, which she read while on a flight from Japan to Los Angeles: "I especially liked Bryan's way of saying a lot, but not saying everything. Often in movies, it's all spelled out for you, and the dialogue is very explanatory. But Bryan doesn't write like that; he writes how normal people communicate—with questions lingering. I knew it would be interesting to act that."Thandie Newton and Charlize Theron also expressed interest in the role. Canadian actor Scott Speedman was cast as James. Speedman was also impressed by the script, stating that "the audience actually gets time to breathe with the characters before things get scary as hell. That got me interested from the first pages".
In casting the three masked intruders, Bertino chose Australian fashion modelGemma Ward for the part of Dollface, feeling she had the exact "look" he had imagined; Ward was officially cast in the film in September 2006. In preparing for the role, Ward read Vincent Bugliosi's Helter Skelter for inspiration. Kip Weeks was then chosen as the Man in the Mask, and television actress Laura Margolis, who found the script to be a real "page turner", was cast in the part of Pin-Up Girl. In retrospect, Bertino said he chose the three actors based on their abilities to convey their characters in spite of the fact that their faces remain unseen onscreen.
Bertino had not initially planned on directing The Strangers, and had been disconnected from the project after selling directorial rights to Universal Pictures. Both Justin Lin and Mark Romanek were attached to direct, but eventually backed out. Approximately two years after Bertino had sold the screenplay, Universal passed the project onto its subsidiary, Rogue Pictures, who approached Bertino to direct the project, despite his lack of experience.
On a $9 million budget, filming for The Strangers began on October 10, 2006, and finished in early 2007. It was shot on location roughly 10 miles outside of Florence, South Carolina, and the 2,000-square-foot (190 m2) house interior was constructed by a set crew. Though the film takes place in 2005, the house itself was deliberately constructed with an architecture reminiscent of 1970s ranch houses and dressed in furnishings applicable to the era. Bertino based the house on the types of homes common where he had grown up in rural Texas. The property was located on the outskirts of Timmonsville, South Carolina. Despite weather complications, the film was largely shot in chronological order.
During production, it was reported that Liv Tyler came down with tonsillitis due to the extensive screaming the role required her to do. Tyler would later recall it being the most difficult film she had ever worked on, "both physically and emotionally." According to Laura Margolis, who played the Pin-Up Girl, Tyler also specifically requested that she not see her mask prior to filming: "I got strict instructions not to let Liv see me in my mask before we shot," Margolis recalled. "The first scene that I shot was stalking [her] outside of the barn. I had been told that she really wanted to be scared. She didn't want to have to fake it, and so it was my responsibility to really scare her. So we shot that scene, I ran at her, she started actually screaming, and then she kicked me away."
The masks featured in the film were chosen by Bertino, who wanted them to appear as though the killers "could have picked them up at any store."
Film editor Kevin Greutert was hired to edit the film; at the time, he recently finished editing Saw III. Several changes were made to the film during post-production, primarily regarding the conclusion: In the screenplay and the original footage shot, the three masked strangers reveal their faces on camera. After the sequence in which Kristen and James are stabbed, the strangers wander around the house, cleaning up parts of the crime scene before dressing into Kristen and James's clothes. Following test screenings, it was decided by the producers that the strangers' faces should remain unseen to the audience, which required the sequences following the stabbing to be excised.
A musical score, consisting of 19 pieces composed by score producer tomandandy, was released on May 27, 2008, and was distributed by Lakeshore Records. The album was received with generally positive reviews by critics. "It's a creepy score for what appears to be a movie that will make you jump as well as make sure that the doors are locked at night," writes reviewer Jeff Swindoll. "This is an impressive score and adds a tremendous chill-factor to the film," says Zach Freeman of Blogger News, grading it with an A.
All tracks are written by tomandandy.
|6.||"James and Kristen"||2:39|
|7.||"3 AM Knock"||4:47|
|10.||"Run to Car"||1:54|
- Songs from Film, but not on Soundtrack
- "Ariel Ramirez" - Richard Buckner
- "Hopeful" - Jennifer O'Connor
- "At My Window Sad and Lonely" - Billy Bragg and Wilco
- "Sprout and the Bean" - Joanna Newsom
- "My First Lover" - Gillian Welch
- "Mama Tried" - Merle Haggard
Marketing and promotion
In late July 2007, Bertino, Tyler and Speedman attended San Diego's annual Comic-Con event to promote the film; all three were present for a questions-and-answers panel session, as well as a screening of the film's official teaser trailer; this trailer was released on the internet several weeks later. It was not until March 2008 that a full-length trailer for the film was released, which can be found on Apple's QuickTime trailer gallery. The trailer originally began running in theaters attached to Rogue Pictures' sci-fi film Doomsday in March 2008, and television advertisements began airing on networks in early-mid April 2008 to promote the film's May release.
Two one-sheet posters for the film were released in August 2007, one showing the three masked Strangers, and the other displaying a wounded Liv Tyler. In April 2008, roughly two months before the film's official theatrical debut, the final, official one-sheet for the film was released, featuring Liv Tyler standing in a darkened kitchen with a masked man looming behind her in the shadows.
The producers originally planned for a summer release in July 2007, which was eventually postponed to November 2007; however, this date was postponed as well. The producers instead opted for a summer release, and The Strangers had its theatrical debut in United States and Canada on May 30, 2008. In its opening weekend, the film grossed $21 million in 2,467 theaters, ranking #3 at the box office and averaging $8,514 per theater. The film became a sleeper hit with a successful box-office return, earning $82.4 million worldwide.
The Strangers was released on DVD and Blu-ray in the United States on October 21, 2008. Both the Blu-ray and DVD feature rated and unrated versions of the film, with the unrated edition running approximately two minutes longer. Bonus materials include two deleted scenes and a making-of featurette. The DVD was released in the UK on December 26, 2008. The film was available on Universal VOD (Video on Demand) from November 19, 2008, through March 31, 2009. In commemoration of the film's 10th anniversary, a two-disc collector's edition Blu-ray by Scream Factory was released on March 6, 2018, featuring a 2K video transfer, as well as a combination of new and archival cast and crew interviews.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 48% based on 165 reviews, with an average rating of 5.1/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "The Strangers has a handful of genuinely scary moments, but they're not enough to elevate the end results above standard slasher fare."Metacritic reported a weighted average score of 47 out of 100, based on 27 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B–" on an A+ to F scale.
Unfavorable reviews included Roger Ebert's of the Chicago Sun-Times, who gave the film one-and-a-half stars out of four, saying: "The movie deserves more stars for its bottom-line craft, but all the craft in the world can't redeem its story." Bob Mondello of NPR said the film was "A sadistic, unmotivated home-invasion flick." Steven Rea of The Philadelphia Inquirer noted that "No one is getting at anything in The Strangers, except the cheapest, ugliest kind of sadistic titillation." Elizabeth Weitzman of the New York Daily News compared the film to 2007's Vacancy – a "comparison which does 'Strangers' no favors. 'Vacancy' director Nimród Antal gave us a pair of heroes who fought like hell to survive, becoming closer and stronger in the effort. Bertino's undeveloped protagonists are colossally stupid and frustratingly passive."Stephen Hunter of The Washington Post panned the film, calling it "a fraud from start to finish."Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle, said the film "uses cinema to ends that are objectionable and vile," but admitted that "it does it well, with more than usual skill."Wesley Morris of The Boston Globe said of the director, "Bertino has the pretensions of an artist and the indelicacy of a hack. He tries to get under our skin with a pile driver." Stephen Whitty of The Star-Ledger opined of the film, "Unfolding with an almost startling lack of self-awareness, young filmmaker Bryan Bertino's debut is such a careful, straight-faced knockoff of '70s exploitation films that it plays like a parody."
Among the positive reviews, Jeannette Catsoulis of The New York Times said The Strangers is "suspenseful," "highly effective," and "smartly maintain[s] its commitment to tingling creepiness over bludgeoning horror." Michael Rechtshaffen of The Hollywood Reporter called the film a "creepily atmospheric psychological thriller with a death grip on the psychological aspect."James Berardinelli of ReelViews gave the film 3 out of 4 stars, saying that, "This is one of those rare horror movies that concentrates on suspense and terror rather than on gore and a high body count." Scott Tobias of The A.V. Club said that "as an exercise in controlled mayhem, horror movies don't get much scarier."
Additional positive feedback for the film came from Joblo.com reviewer Berge Garabedian, who praised director Bertino for "building the tension nicely, with lots of silences, creepy voices, jump scares, use of songs and a sharp eye behind the camera, as well as plenty of Steadicam give it all more of a voyeuristic feel."Empire Magazine remarked on the film's retro-style, saying, "Like much recent horror, from the homages of the Grindhouse gang through flat multiplex remakes of drive-in classics, The Strangers looks to the '70s.", and ultimately branded the film as "an effective, scary emotional work-out."Slant Magazine's Nick Schager listed The Strangers as the 9th best film of 2008.
In 2009, the film was ranked #13 on "Bravo's 13 Scarier Movie Moments" television piece, and in a 2018 retrospective, Clark Collis of Entertainment Weekly deemed the film a "modern-day slasher classic."The A.V. Club named it the 23rd best horror film made since 2000.
Main article: The Strangers: Prey at Night
In August 2008, Rogue Pictures confirmed that a sequel was in the works, with Brian Bertino co-writing the screenplay with Ben Ketai. The project was originally slated to enter principal photography in 2009, during which time it was tentatively titled The Strangers: Part II. Directors Laurent Briet and Marcel Langenegger were considered to direct, but landed eventually to Johannes Roberts. After a troubled development period, filming on the sequel began May 30, 2017. Later titled The Strangers: Prey at Night, the film was released on March 9, 2018.
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The Strangers True Story: Real-Life Crimes That Inspired The Horror Movie
The terrifying 2008 home invasion horror film The Strangers was inspired by real-life violent crimes, including some brutal and notorious murders.
The terrifying 2008 home invasion horror film The Strangers was inspired by real-life violent crimes, including shocking and brutal murders. While the horror genre is often, and not unfairly, associated with tales of monsters, ghosts, and other supernatural creatures, some of the most effective horror films of all time rely on none of those things. As playful as these nightmarish visions are, most exist in the realm of fantasy which allows audiences to view them in relative comfort.
2008 horror movie The Strangers cleverly subverts this premise, becoming scary in the process precisely because it could happen to anyone watching the film. Indeed, while critical consensus remains split on The Strangers' plot, the efficacy of the film's horror elements are unquestioned as a sadistic portrait of a home invasion. While The Strangers' insular premise introduces very few characters outside of Kristen (Liv Tyler), James (Scott Speedman), and the three strangers, its microcosmic nature allows an almost unparalleled ratcheting of tension as a young couple fights tooth and nail for their lives.
Related: Saw: The True Story That Inspired The Horror Movie
Despite the almost ethereal nature of its masked antagonists, The Strangers is based on several true stories. Several harrowing real-life crimes form the backbone of The Strangers' core narrative, including several notorious murders. Here's the real-life crimes and true stories that inspired The Strangers.
The Strangers True Story: Real-Life Crimes That Inspired The Movie
According to novice writer and director Bryan Bertino, The Strangers is primarily based on three alternate real-world events. The first is the infamous series of murders committed by the Manson Family in 1969, later nicknamed "Helter Skelter," which were organized by Charles Manson in an ill-conceived bid to start a race war the cult leader had predicted. In particular, the home invasion and killing of actress Sharon Tate stands out as a clear marker for The Strangers' artistic direction, with its gruesome knife violence drawing close parallels to the stabbing at the Tate home.
The second inspiration for The Strangers is the infamous 1981 Keddie Cabin Murders, in which four people were killed in a small California resort town, including Sue Sharp, her son John, daughter Tina, and John's friend Dana. Disturbingly, the motive for those murders is still unknown, as the Keddie police department never caught the real-life killer(s), and the case remains unsolved. Obvious similarities abound here, with the three masked assailants in The Strangers wandering off into the morning chill after massacring Kristen and James simply "because they were home."
The third and final slice of real inspiration for The Strangers derives from Bertino's life experience. As a child, Bertino recalls a night his parents weren't home, and someone knocked on their door asking for someone who didn't live there. In a reverse of The Strangers, Bertino states he later learned that the people knocking were robbing houses in the neighborhood where no one was home instead of attacking people inside their houses. Still, the experience left an indelible mark on Bertino that later morphed into the terrifying portrait of random rental violence that The Strangers movie endeavors to depict.
More: Final Destination True Story: Real-Life Disaster Inspired Horror Movie
The Batman: Riddler's Arrest Is All Part Of His Plan - Theory ExplainedAbout The Author
Michael Kennedy is an avid movie and TV fan that's been working for Screen Rant in various capacities since 2014. In that time, Michael has written over 2000 articles for the site, first working solely as a news writer, then later as a senior writer and associate news editor. Most recently, Michael helped launch Screen Rant's new horror section, and is now the lead staff writer when it comes to all things frightening. A FL native, Michael is passionate about pop culture, and earned an AS degree in film production in 2012. He also loves both Marvel and DC movies, and wishes every superhero fan could just get along. When not writing, Michael enjoys going to concerts, taking in live professional wrestling, and debating pop culture. A long-term member of the Screen Rant family, Michael looks forward to continuing on creating new content for the site for many more years to come.
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It’s not Halloween just yet, but if quarantine has got you bored and in need of some cheap thrills, why not get your adrenaline pumping with a scary movie night? What’s even more terrifying than a scary movie night is to watch horror movies that are based on a true story. Ready to get spooked? Well, we’ve got you covered with the films that are sure to make your skin crawl.
The Conjuring (2013)
This film is often considered to be one of the most terrifying horror movies of the 2010s that are based on a true story. The Conjuring is set in the year 1971, and the movie begins when the Perrons family moves into a farmhouse in Harrisville, Rhode Island which turns out to be haunted. Supernatural investigators find out a witch’s spirit resides, which ends up possessing a doll in the house.
The supernatural investigators, married couple Ed & Lorraine Warren, had many famous cases in real life which include the Amityville House, which you may have heard of thanks to the film series The Amityville Horror. Lorraine was believed to be a clairvoyant medium who was able to speak with demons & spirits. Together, the couple formed the New England Society for Psychic Research.
Lorraine Warren even served as a consultant on the set of The Conjuring before her passing. She told USA Today: “The things that went on there were just so incredibly frightening. It affects me to talk about it today”. If you’re looking for horror movies that will terrify you and are also based on a true story, this is a must-watch for you.
The Strangers (2008)
The Strangers is one of those psychological horror movies based on a true story that is sure to send chills down your spine long after the film is over. According to writer & director Bryan Bertino, The Strangers is based around three separate events. The first include the infamous Manson Family murders in 1969, specifically the home invasion and murder of actress Sharon Tate.
The second event the film is based on are the infamous Keddie Cabin Murders, which include four folks murdered in a small California resort town in the year of 1981. The victims were Sue Sharp, her son John, daughter Tina, and John’s friend Dana. The third event is based off of the director’s own life from a memory he had as a child and strangers knocked on his door when his parents weren’t home.
When the director, Bertino, answered as a child, the strangers asked for someone who didn’t live there. However, it turned out that instead of knocking on doors and invading the homes of people who were home such as the plot of the film, the people were trying to rob the homes of people who weren’t home. While this surely isn’t as crazy of a story, it’s one that definitely inspired Bertino to write this film.
Silent House (2011)
This terrifying film is an American remake of the original Spanish film La Casa de Muda, which was based on real-life events that happened in a house in Uruguay during the 1940s. Silent House follows the story of a young woman who is working with her father & uncle to help renovate an old family home to prepare to put it up on the housing market.
However, the house, which is long vacant and has no utilities, working electricity, light, etc., the young woman becomes stalked by something that’s lurking in the house. To make matters even worse, she becomes separated from her relatives and trapped inside the house with no way to get back to the outside world. What’s unique about this film is that it was all shot in one continuous shot, to make it all the more realistic.
The film stars WandaVision star Elizabeth Olsen if you’d like to see some of her earlier works before she became the even bigger Hollywood star she is today. If you’re looking for chilling horror movies based on a true story, this one will definitely spook you out for a very long time.
The Strangers is a horror movie so uniquely frightening that the summer after it came out the mere mention of it around a campfire at my friend’s remote cabin in northern Minnesota caused half the group to decide it was time to retire and head inside. Hours later as another guest and I were walking slowly down the beach that connected our friend’s cabin to the others along the shore of the lake we heard knocking coming from one of the dark homes we thought were empty for the weekend. Who knocks at the door of an empty house in the middle of the night? Not someone who expects an answer.
Bryan Bertino wrote and directed The Strangers. He said he wrote the story based on an experience he had in childhood where a stranger came to the door while his parents were out and asked for someone who didn’t live there. He believes the strangers were casing the neighborhood, as several homes were burgled later on. Bertino has also said he was inspired by the murder of Sharon Tate and her friends by the Manson family.
In 1969, a group of cult members under the influence of Charles Manson (and likely hallucinating on LSD) drove to 10500 Cielo Drive in Beverly Hills. They then brutally murdered everyone on the premises, even though they had never met any of the victims before that night. The victims were Sharon Tate, friend and celebrity hairstylist Jay Sebring, heiress Abigail Folger and her boyfriend actor Wojciech Frykowski, and a guest of the property’s caretaker, Steven Parent.
One of the creepiest parts of these murders is that while Sharon Tate was a famous actress (and the home belonged to her husband, Roman Polanski, a famous director) she wasn’t targeted on purpose. Manson had previously been to the home when it was being rented by Terry Melcher, a music producer who worked with The Beach Boys. It’s believed that Manson was upset Melcher had not offered him a record deal. Despite this, no care was taken to actually target Melcher. Manson told his followers to go to the home and “totally destroy everyone in it, and to do it as gruesome as you can” even though he had no idea who would actually be in the home.
The four members of Manson’s cult cut the home’s phone line and then cut through a screen and entered the home through an open window. When Wojciech Frykowski woke up and asked what was going on, one of the cult members, Tex Watson, replied “I’m the devil, and I’m here to do the devil’s business.” This echos one of the most haunting and horrifying parts of the movie when Liv Tyler’s character is finally able to ask “why are you doing this to us?”
The strangers’ answer? “Because you were home.”
Though impersonal murders are typically less gruesome, the Tate murders were particularly violent. Sharon Tate and her guests were gathered in the living room where nooses were put around their necks and then they were murdered one by one. Abigail Folger managed to flee the house but was caught in the yard and stabbed 28 times. Tate plead for the cult to take her hostage long enough for her to give birth to her child but she was stabbed to death and Susan Atkins wrote ‘pig’ on the home’s front door in her blood.
For their roles in the Tate murders as well as other murders and crimes committed as part of their time with the Manson Family Tex Watson and Leslie Van Houten remain in prison. Charles Manson and Susan Atkins died in prison. Patricia Krenwinkel is currently the longed incarcerated woman in California. Linda Kasabian, who was present outside the home on the night of the Tate murders acting as a guard, became a witness for the prosecution against Charles Manson and his cult members and was not charged with any crime.
Another ending for The Strangers gave even more context to the creepy backstory of the strangers but it was cut to keep the killers as scary as possible. Writer/director Bryan Bertino directed sequel The Strangers: Prey at Night but didn’t write the story. He has gone on to direct another creepy cabin in the woods movie with a female lead, He’s Out There, and rural family horror The Dark and the Wicked.
True story reddit the strangers
Is The Strangers Based on a True Story?
‘The Strangers’ finds James and Kristen trapped alone in a remote house at the mercy of three murderous strangers. What starts as a regular night soon turns sinister when a mysterious woman knocks on the door in the middle of the night. The nightmare that follows is gruesome, with no leeway given to the protagonists for heroics or fortunate last-minute interventions. What is perhaps most scary about the film is its relatively straightforward sequence of events that seem ominously close to reality. Could the chilling events we see in ‘The Strangers’ be based on a true story? Let’s find out.
Is The Strangers Based on a True Story?
No, ‘The Strangers’ is not based on a true story. The film, however, is based around the idea that violence can occur in unexpected places and puts the audience in the shoes of the petrified couple who find their family home unexpectedly invaded. The film is written and directed by Bryan Bertino, who has a penchant for horror and grew up watching scary movies. The influence that vintage thrillers from the 1970s had on him can also be seen in this movie.
Bertino’s script was originally titled ‘The Faces’ and was inspired by a few different events that took place during the author’s life. The idea for the film originated from his childhood memories. Whilst their parents were out one day, he and his little sister, as kids, had encountered a stranger knocking on their door and had later found out there were people in the area that were knocking on people’s doors under false pretenses and breaking in when no one answered. As Bertino explained, in ‘The Strangers,’ this situation is reversed as the three intruders break into the house despite the residents being present.
In addition, the notorious murders of Sharon Tate and her friends in her own home by members of the Manson family also inspired the script. The gruesome crime, which occurred on August 8, 1969, involved three members of Charles Manson’s commune breaking into the 8 months pregnant Tate and director Roman Polanski’s residence at night and murdering her along with her wealthy celebrity friends. Polanski, at the time, was in Europe working on a film.
What made the crime especially chilling was the lack of motive or connection between the victims and the perpetrators. Manson had a grudge with record producer Terry Melcher, who was the previous renter of the house. The fact that Melcher no longer lived in the house did not stop Tex Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Susan Atkins, who were all followers of Manson, from murdering Tate and her friends.
The next evening, Manson and his followers murdered Leno and Rosemary LaBianca in their Los Angeles home, also with no discernable motive except for having visited the house next door in the past. The Manson murders, their investigation, and subsequent trials against the cult leader and his followers are described in the book ‘Helter Skelter’ by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry, which Bertino also claims to have taken inspiration from.
The Keddie murders, which took place in 1981 in the small town of Keddie in rural California, also seem to have loosely inspired ‘The Strangers.’ The murders in Keddie claimed the lives of 4 people and remain unsolved to this day. A mother, Glenna Susan Sharp, her son John Sharp, his friend Dana Hall Wingate and his little sister Tina Sharp were all brutally murdered by unknown assailants, with Tina’s remains being found over 3 years later and a hundred miles away from their home in the resort town. Over 4,000 man-hours have been spent on the case, with multiple suspects but no arrests. The two major suspects in the case have since passed away.
The senseless killing of people in their own homes makes up one of the core ideas of the film that Bertino wanted to get across. A lot of the film’s ominous tones also rely on the fact that the straightforward events depicted therein can happen to anyone. It is also most probably why the town where the events of the film take place remains unspecified — to highlight the universality of the sinister phenomenon.
‘The Strangers,’ despite being based on a fictional script written by the film’s director Bryan Bertino, examines a very real phenomenon that has also been examined in other movies. The Charles Manson murders, in particular, continue to capture people’s imaginations and have inspired movies like Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood.’ The theme of senseless violence that the film embodies is directly highlighted by the factoid flashed in the film’s opening credits— that there are an estimated 1.4 million violent crimes in the US every year.
Read More: Best Home Invasion Movies of All Time
The Ending Of The Strangers Explained
Love 'em or hate 'em, jump scares are an essential part of horror films. While not all screamers, as they are sometimes called, are created equal, some are nobler than others.
"Stingers" describe the jump scares that give the audience one last jolt before the credits roll — and believe it or not, it's a time-honored tradition. There's the dream sequence at the end of "Carrie," for instance, where our titular witchy heroine's bloodied arm bursts out of her rocky grave to snatch the traumatized Sue. And who could forget the concluding shot of the fantastic found-footage film "[REC]," which sees Angela dragged off into the darkness, screaming in terror at a monstrosity she cannot see. From Jason's decomposing corpse springing out of the placid lake in the original "Friday the 13th" to Donald Sutherland's horrifying shriek at the end of the 1978 "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" remake, a final shocking scare is a totally acceptable (if a bit silly) way to end a horror film.
"The Strangers" keeps that tradition alive. As the two Mormon boys (who are going to need some serious therapy after this) venture into the house, they spy James and Kristen's mangled bodies and investigate. Hovering over Kristen, the boys take in the crime scene with a frankly eerie silence, dumbstruck perhaps at the gruesome bloodbath before them.
One boy hovers over Kristen's corpse, extending his hand towards her face (hey, maybe he was going to check her vitals, who knows?). Then: bam. Kristen comes to, screaming. Cut to black.
Considering the film's nihilistic gait, Kristen's survival is initially surprising. But upon closer inspection, the assailants leaving Kristen alive gives us some disturbing insight into the killers' psyche. They are not concerned with the act of killing, or even being caught. All that interests them is the violence — rhyme, reason, or consequence be damned.
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The Disturbing Real-Life Inspiration For The Strangers
According to an extra featurette on the film's DVD release called "Defining Moments: Writing and Directing The Strangers," the screenplay was inspired by a real-life incident that Bryan Bertino had experienced as a child. "As a kid, I lived in a house on a street in the middle of nowhere. One night, while our parents were out, somebody knocked on the front door and my little sister answered it. At the door were some people asking for somebody who didn't live there. We later found out that these people were knocking on doors in the area and, if no one was home, breaking into the houses," the director explained in production notes archived from the website Hollywood Jesus. According to a 2008 interview with the now-defunct horror website Shock Til You Drop, he also drew inspiration from the Manson Family murders, having been influenced by the book "Helter Skelter" as a child.
Fans were so devoted to figuring out the case that inspired "The Strangers" that they created a map featuring every single home located at an 1801 Clark Road — the address given for the cabin in the film — in America, and debated whether or not that could be the location of the supposed true-life crimes which took place there. But according to Bertino, "With 1801 Clark Road, people can look at that and say, 'Where is that address?' But the reality of it is, that's the address I grew up in. I just picked that address because I wanted to ground the film in as much reality as possible," he told Shock 'Til You Drop. Talk about being dedicated to your craft!