The Strangers: Chapter One is a major misstep for the franchise

With the third installment in The Strangers franchise kicking off a new trilogy, does it stick the landing or miss the mark?
The Strangers. Photo Credit: John Armour
The Strangers. Photo Credit: John Armour /

As a long-time fan of the 2008 cult classic film The Strangers and its more polarizing sequel, The Strangers: Prey at Night, no one wanted to like this film more than me. Which only makes this review that much harder to write.

When first announced, the creation of The Strangers: Chapter One left many scratching their heads, with its title and marketing implying the film would be a prequel to the original.

Chapter One does keep in tact the original "true crime" approach. After a routine cold open, the film transitions into a familiar yet eerie text wall, similar to the original save for the narration. While the text is essentially the same as the original, it does add a bit of a fourth wall break, an addition I found bold but not unwelcome.

The film’s long-winded first act goes practically nowhere, digging through a cliché bag of tricks before getting our protagonists to the cabin for the rest of the film. Plot conveniences and setups solved in a matter of moments, or even seconds, in Bertino's original feel like painstaking hurdles here.

There is an utter lack of emotional depth, leaving viewers feeling little for the characters when the movie's sinister events begin to unfold. The two lead protagonists in the film, Maya and Ryan, are played by Madelaine Petsch and Froy Gutierrez, respectively.

Petsch does what she can to bring depth to the character and serves as the film's primary focus. While her acting delivers and is one of the film's only good aspects, her characterization doesn't come across enough to leave me wanting to see more of her character's story.

The Strangers
Froy Gutierrez as “Ryan” and Madelaine Petsch as “Maya” in THE STRANGERS Trilogy, a Lionsgate release. Photo Credit: John Armour for Lionsgate /

Chapter One has a decent amount of jump scares that work, but as far as setting up a compelling narrative and an eerie atmosphere, the movie falls flat, spending way too much time sitting in the shadow of its predecessor and rarely does it find moments create something original.

What’s especially frustrating about this choice is that when the film strays from the beat sheet of the original, there are some interesting and neat ideas at play. That's the real tragedy, the film's lack of ambition keeps it trapped in a series of cliches and underwhelming moments.

Overall, Chapter One fell too flat to me, with poor attempts at recreating the original, and with little to offer in terms of unique scares. I can only hope that parts two and three are better, as they are freed from the pre-determined confines of the original film.

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