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The Strangers :Chapter 1 slices new blood into the franchise

Renowned in horror and action filmmaking, Renny Harlin showcases his directorial prowess in the latest franchise installment, "The Strangers: Chapter 1," under Lionsgate. Alan R. Cohen and Alan Freedland crafted the screenplay for this production based on a story by Bryan Bertino, the original film's director and writer, in 2008. The latest film in the franchise serves as the first installment of an intended relaunch in the form of a standalone trilogy.

Maya (Madelaine Petsch) and Ryan (Froy Gutierrez) are five days into a dating anniversary road trip to Portland, Oregon, so Maya can interview for a job. The couple stops for lunch at a local diner in a small town. However, things take a puzzling turn when their car breaks down, and the locals hastily recommend the couple to stay at an Airbnb. As the night progresses, strange occurrences continue to happen, and the couple soon find themselves in a fight for their lives against the "Strangers," known only by their aliases "Pin-up Girl," "Scarecrow," and "Dollface."

Sans a quick opening sequence involving a businessman, the first half hour of The Strangers: Chapter 1" is a slow build, which will naturally polarize audiences for a film like this. The reviews for the film haven't been good; however, I am in the minority of critics who like the film. The script makes the wise decision to build characterization for Ryan and Maya as the characters feel like friends that we know. I credit that to the leads for having organic chemistry.

Renny Harlin, who made his debut with 1986's "Born American," has always juggled between horror and action in his career. While he's had his share of misses, he can deliver the goods when Harlin is focused. After previously keeping audiences on the edge of their seats with a Freddy Krueger film and a shark film, it was only natural that he tried his hand at the home invasion genre. While the film has some slasher elements and delves into predictable territory, it presents a real-life and death situation that could happen to anyone in the wrong place at the wrong time, which makes the film work.

The unknown actors who make up the antagonists, the Strangers, are also good. They use very little dialogue but strike with stealth-like movements and are downright creepy. I give credit once again to the screenwriters for not giving a backstory or motive for the evil deeds, as sometimes the unknown is what can scare us the most.

After a six-year hiatus, the 'Strangers franchise is back, and fans can rejoice knowing that the next installments are already in the can. The trilogy promises to delve deeper into the characters, both victims and perpetrators, of random violent crimes, offering a unique perspective on the genre. With this exciting direction, I eagerly await the completion of the arc in the upcoming films.

Final Grade: B-

"The Strangers: Chapter 1" is in theaters now


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