Geekade's Scariest Moments: The Strangers

Knock …..   knock…..   knock…..

I am not anti-social.  I am not agoraphobic.  Hell, I’m not even a millennial, but few sounds fill me with more dread than an unexpected knock at the door, particularly at night, particularly when I’m alone. I think part of it has to do with the violent nature of the sound of a human hand striking wood. The sharp whacking sound that cuts though a quiet evening at home instantly freezes me. The television gets muted, and I wait. Still. Frozen in place secretly hoping to not hear a thing, but a knock at the door is a knock at the door. It needs to be investigated, because there it is again: Knock… Knock… Knock.

My approach to the door has my head racing with possible scenarios. Of course my rational side knows all the likely culprits. It’s probably my wife who didn’t feel like getting her keys out, my neighbor who needs to borrow a power tool, a delivery, or a relative who was in the area. 

But, you know, maybe it isn’t.

Here's a stock photo of a cabin in the woods at night. You know, for atmosphere. 

Here's a stock photo of a cabin in the woods at night. You know, for atmosphere. 

Maybe I’m about to have a face to face conversation with a criminal who wants to rob a house, and is checking to see if anyone was home. Perhaps it’s someone who “ran out of gas” and “hadn’t had a chance to charge their phone” which puts me in the middle of an awful decision. Of course, there’s always that chance, that one in a million chance that obviously has to happen to somebody because we’ve all seen it on the news, that on the other side of that solid slab of wood, is a murderer.  

Not the, “you slept with my wife” murderer, but the kind that does it for fun. The kind that has voices telling them how to do it. The kind that can’t be reasoned with, who doesn’t want money, and who doesn’t care if they get caught. 

There are things that I’m scared of and things that I’m not. I’m not scared of ghosts or hauntings, largely because I don’t believe they are real. I’m not scared of nature because it can be understood. What I am scared of is the real and crazy. Which brings us to the movie “The Strangers.” A movie that, at the risk of sounding like a character from a Nick Hornby novel, has got to be in my top five of horror movies. 

I was working late and a coworker loaned me the flick. It was a cold a night, but not so cold that I didn’t have a bunch of windows open around the house. I was alone. My wife took the kids to visit her mother, and I had the place to myself. I really should have known better. I made myself some tea, killed every light in the house and hit play.

The budget for The Strangers was small. The setting is unremarkable. The characters are largely flat and uninteresting. The plot is singular in note. The movie revolves around a couple, who are in a remote house in the woods that are terrorized by three masked strangers, and it all starts, you guessed it, by a knock at the door. Enter the star of film, the atmosphere, no offense to Liv Tyler who takes top billing.  Honestly, before Liv made it to her door, I was checking the locks on mine.

I won’t go through the movie beat by beat, because if you haven’t seen it, and you’re into freaking yourself out, you’ve got to catch this one. What I will tell you is that before the credits rolled, somehow the windows found their way to being closed and locked, the curtains were drawn because staring out into the blackness of the night was growing to be too disturbing, lights were being turned on because turning the corner into dark rooms was proving to be too taxing on my heart, and the sound of the wind pushing the rocking chair on the porch was unsettling, but venturing outside was too daunting to even consider. The entire movie had me on a razors edge. I was constantly trying to look over the characters’ shoulders hoping to see the scare coming just a bit early.

Just looking at the movie poster gives me an uneasy feeling.  Just look at that! And that’s how I felt for about 75 minutes.

I will talk about one spoiler. It’s one of the last lines of the film so if you’re sensitive to that kind of thing turn back now.  

At the very end Liv Tyler asks her tormentors why they are doing this to them. The response is “because you were home.” Boom. That’s what makes the whole thing so chilling. It’s the randomness of it all. The victims could be you or me, but they were unlucky. Next time will we be so lucky? 

Sure it’s a million to one when there’s a knock at the door there’s death on the other side, but hey, somebody has to be that “one,” right?