The Strangers: Chapter 1 Review

The Strangers: Chapter 1 kicks off an epic (and ambitious) three-part horror trilogy. Does the first part live up to expectations?

Last Updated on May 24, 2024

PLOT: After their car breaks down in an eerie small town, a young couple is forced to spend the night in a remote cabin. Panic ensues as they are terrorized by three masked strangers who strike with no mercy and seemingly no motive.

REVIEW: I count myself as a big fan of the original Strangers. The idea of home invasion is absolutely terrifying and its pulled off brilliantly. The Strangers themselves were able to enter the pop culture zenith due to their incredible mask designs and the mystery behind them. Then Prey At Night came out and didn’t have quite the same impact. Sure, everyone likes the pool scene but what else is there? So it’s nice to see The Strangers return, but more in the style of the 2008 film. But those expecting the same old, same old may be disappointed.

Despite being a soft reboot, Chapter 1 is very much a different vibe from the original film. Following two young adults, this has a decidedly more slashery feel; complete with tropes and jump scares. And I’ve harped on jump scares for ages but it all depends on the context. A cat jumping out of nowhere, accompanied by a loud noise? Cheap. The appearance of a creepy mechanic after showing him staring from a distance? Perfectly set up. Especially when tension permeates nearly every frame, so these moments of release help the momentum of the film. This is definitely one you’ll want to experience with a crowd.

In many ways, Chapter 1 feels like a retelling of the original story. Only instead of a couple being attacked at their summer home, it’s a younger couple being attacked at their Airbnb. Nearly all of us have used these services so it feels like a nice modern upgrade. I mean hell, what millennials actually own homes, let alone vacation homes? Maya and Ryan are a believable couple, even if their interactions in the first act are a little hokey. They’re both great once the horror starts. And the town of Venus, Oregon has a personality all its own, with various locals that are teased to be the true identities of the nefarious bad guys. I liked the religious angle they hinted at, as there’s clearly a lot more going on here.

Maya and Ryan are an interesting couple because they feel so fundamentally opposed. Maya is open and trusting while Ryan is more reserved and combative. Unlike the original where it was more “is our relationship over”, this is more of a “are these people right for each other?” Then through the course of the film, we see how much they clearly care for each other. And I really enjoyed how Maya feels like more of an audience surrogate while Ryan is making standard horror mistakes.

There’s not a whole lot of violence here but I appreciated how much they went for practically. There’s a bit involving a nail that is expertly handled. However, there is one bit of CGI that is genuinely baffling in its execution. It really took me out of the film and made me question why they even included it in the first place. There are a few moments of “Why aren’t you just driving/running!?” but it doesn’t ruin the experience. If anything, I was very impressed with the logic on display. There’s a moment where Maya remembers to take the shotgun with her that elicited a massive reaction from my screening audience.

The Strangers themselves all have personalities that help them feel distinguishable. Bringing back the same mask designs was a smart move as they’re truly terrifying, especially when shown lurking in the background. Their lack of dialogue and body language really adds to their aura. I loved all the lurking near the characters without their knowledge. My main concern going in was that we’d find out too much about the villains. And while there are hints to their purpose, nothing is outright stated. Mystery is their strong suit so it’s hard not to worry about any potential unmaskings in future entries.

Overall I really enjoyed my time with The Strangers: Chapter 1. I think that fans of the original will enjoy this one but there will be some annoyed at how slashery it gets. This is much more overt in its scares. The rest of the trilogy is really going to affect how this one is viewed in hindsight because there’s a lot of setup going on. If they go too far with explaining the origins, then this would could play worse on rewatch. But with only hints of what’s to come, I really enjoyed this outing for what it is: a cat and mouse thriller set at a cabin in the woods. As a massive slasher fan, this film felt like it was made for me and I can’t wait to see where they take it.

THE STRANGERS – Chapter 1 will be available in theaters nationwide on May 17, 2024. Check out our interviews with the cast HERE.


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