These days, there seems to be two types of horror films in mainstream America. You’ve got the so-called “torture porn” films like Hostel and Saw. Or you’ve got remakes — either or foreign films like One Missed Call or Shutter*, or of classic horror films, like Prom Night (not that the original Prom Night could really be considered a classic, but you get my point, right?). They’re not always bad movies — though usually they are — but it’s really very seldom that one comes along that’s actually, um, scary. And they’re horror movies, right? Shouldn’t “scary” sort of be the whole endgame?
So when a movie like The Strangers comes along, it’s like a breath of creepy fresh air. I’m not going to say that The Strangers is the second coming of the American horror film or anything, but when a horror movie does so many things right, you can’t help but be giddy about its success (not financially, since the numbers have yet to come out; plus it’s competing against that other horror movie this weekend).
What makes The Strangers work so well is that it takes a decisive 70s approach to horror filmmaking. In particular, I’m thinking of the pre-Jason slashers like, of course, the king Michael Myers himself. A lot of the decisions that are made by the filmmakers in The Strangers seem to stem from a love of John Carpenter’s classic.