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The Strangers: Chapter 1

“The Strangers: Chapter 1” follows a young couple who get stranded in an off-the-beaten-path town in Oregon and end up spending the night at an Airbnb lodge in the woods. Unfortunately for them, three masked strangers are about to make their night a living hell.To be clear, some may consider this review biased as I count myself as a major fan of Bryan Bertino’s original 2008 film “The Strangers”. To date, it is possibly the most nerve-shredding experience I’ve had seeing a film on the big screen. Sixteen years have passed since I first saw it, but I’ve never forgotten it. And while its 2018 sequel, “The Strangers: Prey at Night” took a notably different tone, it at least managed to function as a stylish and energetic slasher film in the same vein.This reboot (or prequel, according to some sources–having seen the film now, I am unsure of how this could possibly function as such) does no such thing. Rather, it follows the framework of the 2008 original nearly beat by beat, save a protracted first quarter in which we are served the “city kids in redneck town full of leery locals who are sinister for no apparent reason” trope (by the way, I am a native Oregonian, and I can vouch that people there do not speak with southern accents, even in the backwoods).The things that “The Strangers: Chapter 1” gets wrong are numerous, but the subtlety, stillness, and down-home feel of its source material is one of the glaring things that is most sorely missed. This film is loaded with dramatic musical cues, predictable scares, fog machine-shrouded forests, and trite dialogue. There is little to no gravity to be found here in the characters or the setting, and without that, a film with a barebones story like this swiftly goes off the rails into the land of cliche after cliche after cliche. The lead actors here do what they can with the material, but the stilted dialogue often renders them at the mercy of a lifeless and clunky script.In the end, “The Strangers: Chapter 1” simply feels like a soulless paint-by-numbers imitation of the 2008 film, using the template as a vessel only to fill it with bland, uninspired recreations of that film’s most tense and frightening moments. There are no scares to be had here, and even worse, there are few thrills either. “The Strangers: Chapter 1” is frankly boring, which does not bode well for a further two installments. “To be continued”? No, thank you. 2/10.