The Strangers: Chapter 1 – A genuine horror or a feeble attempt to revamp a cult classic?

Horror fans will know that any slasher film post 1990’s is trying to be Scream or Halloween, and those are tough acts to follow. When The Strangers hit the screen in 2008, it felt like somewhat of a fresh take on the slasher genre, and although it wasn’t universally loved, critics have since gone on to call it a ‘cult classic’. However, that is where the story should have ended. 2018 saw The Strangers: Prey at Night, which although dubbed as a direct sequel, felt more like someone trying to sell the original to the modern audience and ultimately it went unnoticed.

Although Chapter 1 has been promoted as a fresh take, as soon as the masked killers appear it becomes a loose remake of the Bertino original, going as far as featuring some of the same scenes, from the spinning record player to the infamous car crash. The only difference being the initial set up of the two leads having to spend a night in an Airbnb after their car breaks down. This was the first red flag; they couldn’t think of anything more imaginative than car trouble? To which they then leave their car in a run-down repair shop and are driven to an Airbnb in the middle of the woods by a stranger they just met. Oh, and the male lead (played by Froy Gutierrez) has asthma and of course forgets his inhaler in the car.

After this, it becomes a very predictable animal and prey slasher, with very little slash. The killers are in the house, the leads are being hunted but every opportunity they have to get away is ruined by them timely falling over, having an asthma attack or by sheer stupidity, and then the killers eventually capture them. It had some jump scares that landed but ultimately, the beginning dragged on and the ending was incredibly rushed. It felt more like a chase movie than a slasher, with most of the killers’ screen time being close ups of them trying to find the two leads. The film ends approximately 5 minutes after the strangers capture the leads and therefore the entire movie feels a little pointless. 

However, we know that this is the first in a trilogy of films that were all filmed consecutively over the course of 52 days. Perhaps some of the questions left unanswered in Chapter 1 will be answered over the next two films. Although, I still feel that regardless of if it’s a “you need to watch all three” sort of franchise, this first movie still felt lazy and rushed.

All that being said, Madelaine Petsch and Froy Gutierrez both had fantastic performances and I truly believed in the relationship they were presenting. The standout for me was EmaHorvath as Shelly; the local diner waitress who drives the couple to the Airbnb. She had the perfect mix of innocence with an uneasy edge that makes you wonder if she knew what was going to happen to them, or even if she might be one of the strangers herself. 

There is nothing in this film that tells us why we should show up twice further in the next 12 months or why we were even here in the first place and ultimately it just fell flat. It didn’t have the same grit and nastiness that exuded in the original and felt like a rose-tinted version of the slasher story we know. To sum up, The Strangers: Chapter 1 felt very “this will do, right?”