Picks and Pans Review: The Strangers

updated 06/09/2008 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/09/2008 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Liv Tyler, Scott Speedman | R |

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THRILLER

Most modern horror films fail to tap into our primal fears—does anyone really worry about encountering Saw's Rube Goldberg-like death devices or the desert-dwelling mutants from The Hills Have Eyes? But the creepy premise of The Strangers—crumbling couple James and Kristen (Speedman and Tyler) are startled by a seemingly lost 4 a.m. visitor to their cottage and subsequently terrorized by her and two other masked figures lurking outside—will rattle anyone who has ever nervously bunked in a remote country home. At least, until it becomes apparent that the trio (and the film's first-time writer-director Bryan Bertino) have no tricks up their sleeves other than rapping angrily on doors and loitering ominously. Meanwhile, Tyler and Speedman are stuck stumbling around the property. Tyler tries valiantly, but there are only so many ways one can scream the name "James!" After such initial promise, it doesn't take long for The Strangers to become awfully familiar.

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