The Strangers Blu-ray Review
”The Strangers” is presented in widescreen 2.35:1 with VC-1 1080p coding.
The majority of “Strangers” is set in the artificially lit Hoyt farmhouse and its surrounding isolated woodland. As expected from such surroundings “Strangers” is an extremely dark movie that boasts very deep, solid blacks. In various scenes the blacks are very dominant due to a complete lack of light in the shot and not as a result of unintentional crushing. It seems that Bertino purposefully produced a black heavy print to increase the ominous nature of the situation
The print is in excellent condition as is to be expected from such a recent movie and detail, where visible, is spot on. For example the curtains in the farmhouse have great texture and the print on the ice cream tub is clearly visible. It's a treat in the closing scenes of the movie to witness some of the detail on clothing and farmhouse surroundings in daylight. The movie is also free from compression artefacts throughout.
There is however some grain present in the print which is visible on the walls of the farmhouse during the darker scenes. I was also disappointed at how soft the image could look at times. I would have expected this on an older movie but for such a new release we should have had a more 3D presentation with depth rather than the somewhat flat image that is actually on show. This seems to have been a conscious decision as “Strangers” does have a 70's-esque palette and at times the softness seems to lend itself to the intruders stealthy proceedings.
Colours and tone appear somewhat muted but this fits the “before dawn” darkness with accompanying artificial light and does not detract from the presentation.
Although clear and detailed when it wants to be, it seems that the choice was made to mute tones and add dominating blacks which, although add to the atmosphere, restrict this BD's capabilities
“Strangers” comes packed with a dts-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack.
”Strangers” is for the most part a quiet movie that utilises silences in combination with ambient noises (such as the intruder's breathing or the clanging of wind chimes) to great effect creating a suitable foreboding ambience. The soundtrack really excels when the intruders are hammering on the front door as they attempt to rattle and panic Kristen/James as they cower inside. These knocks have a great presence with accompanying LFE thump - when the first knock pounded forth it did cause me to jump (I should be a poet!). There's also fantastic front steerage and there were a couple of occasions when I actually thought that there was someone outside!
Dialogue is clear but at times it seems much lower in the mix than other effects and, while still audible, can be slightly difficult to follow at times. There is one great impact scene where the intruder's Ford truck crashes into James's Volvo with good LFE extension which reverberates around the room. Aside from the knocks on the door which do demonstrate excellent front separation there are not many audio highlights on this disc. The only scene where the surrounds really came to life was in the barn scene where one intruder could be heard scurrying around the room.
The score in “Strangers” was recorded by the Brataslavian Symphony Orchestra and I have to say that they did a fantastic job. The score has great string sections and deep ominous bass notes which add to the suspense on screen. The score sits perfectly in the mix with great input at times such as the sharp notes accompanying the stab scene. Ambient background music from the old record player in the Hoyt home also features quiet a bit in “Strangers”. The crackling of the vinyl again adds to the atmosphere and in some parts the oldies like “Mama Tried” can sound very well in this HD mix.
Overall the track does a fine job of adding to the terror factor in “Strangers” but I would have liked more surround presence as in movies like this more surround activity generally equals more atmosphere. In saying that this mix is satisfactory and well presented throughout although it doesn't contain any reference standard moments (except perhaps for the door knocks). p>
A well engineered and enjoyable mix that enhances the movie.
”Strangers” comes with a sparse selection of extras and disappointingly no commentary track. We've also got the BluRay Live feature that provides a link to a collection of extras including “Hellboy II” and “Death Race”. There is also a feature called “My Scenes” which allows the viewer to save a selection of scenes from the movie for playback. I can see how this would be useful for BD's that contain some reference audio/video scenes but I cannot see myself using this feature for “Strangers”
The Elements of Terror (9mins) - a mini documentary on the production of “Strangers” which contains an interesting look behind scenes on set. We also get to see Liv Tyler's insight into her concerns over her scream capabilities. The production team and Bertino also mixed up some of the action to keep the cast on their feet and capture some genuine reactions on camera. There's also a hint of the “divas” about Liv in this doc as we see that she had to run over a mile (the poor dear) every day to try and appear worn out and sweaty on screen (Liv was also the only one in the credits who had a personal chef!). It seems that some of the scenes are a bit blown out of proportion with regards to how much work was involved in making them when compared to other bigger budget productions.
Deleted Scenes - Here we have a paltry two deleted scenes that are in substandard, unfinished quality and really do not add any insight or value to the extended presentation.
A selection of extras that as a whole do not really add to the experience
This BD release of “The Strangers” is a standard affair with nothing to really make it stand out from the crowd. The movie itself is an enjoyable (if slightly unfulfilling) experience and I would be surprised if I ever gave it another viewing.
The video presentation can be very good at times but for the majority of screen time one is left peering into a tremendous abyss of black. Detail, especially during the daytime scenes, can be excellent but the overall muted tones and grindhouse-esque pallet do nothing to enhance picture quality. The disc does however have an impressive DTS-HD Master Audio track that does warrant a listen and is very enjoyable throughout.
The extras let this disc down with a poor selection of substandard quality deleted scenes and a short behind the scenes featurette that do nothing to bolster the main presentation. Aside from that there's nothing else worth mentioning.
Overall a good (but not great) BluRay presentation that, although serviceable, will not blow viewers aware in comparison to other available titles
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.99
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