The Best of the Bad Guys: The Strangers

The Best of the Bad Guys takes a look at the best (and worst) moments involving the killers from The Strangers series

The episode of The Best of the Bad Guys focuses on the trio of killers from The Strangers. It is written, narrated, and edited by Mike Holtz.

Welcome to The Best of The Bad Guys! Where we rank the best of cinema’s worst villains. From their best kill to their best jump scares and even their French kissing abilities. What? Today, we’re talking about The Strangers. A trio of mysterious and sadistic murderers who like to show up in remote locations, toy with, piss off, and eventually murder human beings for absolutely no reason whatsoever. 

Now, at the time of this writing, there are only two films worth of Stranger’s awful antics, but there’s an entire trilogy on the way, starting with Renny Harlin’s The Strangers: Chapter One this May. Would you like to go lay by the bay? Perhaps eat some hay? The original film was released in 2008 by writer/director Brian Bertino, who based the screenplay on both the Manson family murders and some B & E’s that happened in his neighborhood when he was a kid. All that was good enough to give the film one of those “Based on True Events” cards that make you feel all strange inside like you just stole a Whitney Houston CD from Walmart and got away with it. The first film starred Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman as a couple who just can’t decide what they want. 

They return to their cabin in the middle of the night, only to be terrorized by three strangers with masks. Ten years later, the sequel, The Strangers: Prey At Night, blessed us with the same kind of dark trappings, only this time, backed by a great soundtrack of ironic scoring like Total Eclipse of The Heart and Kids in America by Kim Wilde as the trio slashes through a lovely family of four at a remote campground. 

Personally, I’m a fan of both movies. And find the first film to be a mean but necessary home invasion flick that makes all horror movies around it better by being as mean as possible. And what I mean by this is that The Strangers being so cruel and hopeless in its ending makes you just that much more nervous for the next few horror films you watch that may just do the same unless you’re watching a Conjuring spin-off or a recent Blumhouse film. We all know there’s nothing gnarly happening there.

While the second movie has a little bit more fun with itself, especially in the ending (which we’ll definitely be talking about today)…it was kind of genius to take a concept so seriously and put it under the lens of a more traditional slasher fare and had a little bit of fun with it while maintaining its teeth. I thought both films had their place in the world in their own ways. So, with that being said…. let’s start ranking these potato sack-wearing buttholes! We mentioned the Conjuring universe earlier, so let’s start with the best Strangers jump scare!

There is a metric butt-load of jump scares throughout the two movies, but many of them are done in a far more subtle fashion than what we’re used to in today’s paranormal-heavy film landscape. This one came to two specific moments for me, and the runner-up is going to be this moment in The Strangers Prey at Night. As Bailee Madison’s character Kinsey tries to take refuge in one of those pumpkin patch-type playground tunnels for easily pleased children, Michael Myers shows up and helps her murder her friend before weirdly gyrating all over the place….oh shoot, wrong movie sack man, then drives the truck up to the opening, prompting her to try to scream it away before realizing one of those wily f*cks are in the tunnel with her. This was an amazingly done jump scare, but it doesn’t take the cake today solely because the big dummies at the studio included it in the main trailer for the film, totally spoiling it. 

However, I forgot that upon my most recent rewatch, I can confirm its potency. I’m going to give the leading award here today for the closet jump scare in the original film. Liv Tyler hides in the closet in what should be one of the most by-the-numbers horror movie trope moments but is really elevated by some nice camera work and tension. All the focus here is on potato sack head, and you’re still staring into the part of the screen he disappeared at when suddenly dingus #2 comes out of the left side of the screen and scares the bejesus out of you. Love it. It isn’t a jump scare, but the creepiest moment in both has to be this scene, also from the original, where he first appears behind her in the living room. It’s a beautifully lit and framed shot where he stands there and watches her without her knowing whatsoever. It’s just so invasive. 

Speaking of invasive, how about The Strangers best kill? Well, I have an opinion, of course, but why don’t we ask our friend ole’ potato sack head himself, the Wrong Turn, Haunt, and, of course, Strangers Prey at Night actor….I give you the man who played “the man in the mask” himself…..Damian Maffei is on his favorite kill of the franchise. Damian is my favorite kill in Strangers Prey at Night. My favorite scene is when I get in the car with Pop and Mike. I sit down in the van with him, and he’s pinned to the seat because a plank of wood came through the window there. When I first read that scene in the script…that one stopped me there because I felt like this was the one. 

This is the whole reason I am doing the movie: to be able to take my time with this. In one scene, I could slow down and do it at my own pace. Kind of sets the pace for the scene and plays around with it. It really kinda makes something kind of harrowing. Kind of menacing. It really played out pretty much exactly as it did in my head. Played out really well in my head. I think we nailed that one. That was one time I kind of stuck with him and maintained eye contact. The music in there. It was pretty great. That’s my favorite one. That’s my favorite scene. I liked that one. I enjoyed doing it. I enjoyed doing multiple takes of it. Martin is screaming the whole time. Trying to maintain that panic and fear. It’s good stuff. Anyway, there you go. Oh, I’m Damian Maffei, by the way. I don’t know if I should have led off saying that. But I didn’t! 

Thanks, Damian! For the record, I really wanted to see the alternate ending of Prey at Night, where Damian’s character was still alive and came bursting into that hospital room all burned to a crisp. I also would have loved a third film with Damian, where the franchise shocked everyone by going full-on supernatural slasher with no explanation. But that’s just me. Anywho, for my personal favorite kill of the franchise, I WANT to say the pool scene….but he didn’t die, now did he? More on that later. My instincts tell me to go with the same scene as Damian (which I did not know before I wrote this), between Damian and the dad (played by Martin Henderson) in the truck, as he stabs Dad in the neck with a screwdriver and stares into his eyes while Cambodia by Kim Wilde plays.

Partly because I am a self-professed radio hog, and I totally get having to have the perfect song on before you handle your business. Also, because it’s just so darn uncomfortable, it almost makes you giddy. And I know how messed up that sounds. In the scene, potato sack man throws a cinder block at the vehicle Mike and his son Hoyt (played by Lewis Pullman) are in, and Mike very much so overreacts, crashing the vehicle into a trailer and inconveniently lodging a large piece of immovable wood into his own abdomen. In the words of Macho Man Randy Savage as Bonesaw from Spider-Man….” You ain’t goin’ nowhere.” The man in the mask then calmy enters the truck and searches through the radio for the perfect song to kill to. 

All while Mike is pleading in pain for his life and the life of his family. But he knows that’s not going to do any good once the man shows him the screwdriver-like thing he’s holding in his hand. The man slowly stares at him before stabbing him in the neck and excitedly watching the life leave his body. Damian did a great job in this scene using his body and eye movements to really creep you the f*ck out (bleeped).

Now, how about The Strangers MEANEST kill? Jesus H Shuff N’ Stuff, was that last one not the meanest? Oh, no. That title belongs to the end of the original film, where they murder Scott Speedman’s James Hoyt in front of the indecisive woman he loves. This scene just makes my heart ache. Not only have we watched these two suffer at the hands of this unholy triumvirate throughout the night….torturing them mentally more than physically, tricking them into shooting their own best friend in their face (although that kind of just happened, I think potato sack man wanted to axe that dude), and just being huge jerkoffs in general. Now, we have to watch as all their attempts to escape were for naught. 

The morning light has arrived but provides no solace. The strangers stand before them and begin to remove their masks, which, if you’ve ever seen a movie, you know that means you are absolutely about to die. If they aren’t scared of showing you their face, it typically means it’s going to be the last face you see. And for James quick draw McGraw Hoyt… was. This moment is breathtakingly messed up because they all know it’s coming. They slowly pull out a large kitchen knife and reveal it to the two of them as they hold each other and cry before he just unceremoniously begins stabbing him in the stomach as she’s forced to watch. Just brutal. That’s nearly Funny Games levels of meanness.

Honorable mention here goes to The Strangers Prey at Night scene where the mom, played by the beautiful Christina Hendricks, is killed in front of her daughter. As she helps Kinsey through the extremely inconveniently placed ceiling window in the camper, Dollface (played impressively by Gemma Ward) gets up in on her real close from behind and begins to stab her in the back multiple times, even twisting the knife just to be a dick. The scene is so heartbreaking because she was a good mom, and her poor daughter has to watch her sacrifice herself for her safety. And to such an unemotional psychopath in a mask to boot. I’m equally mad at this scene because she didn’t even fight back! Grab that toilet seat and start swinging, lady!

Well, now I’m just sad….let us move on to the coolest moment in The Strangers short filmography……I think we all know where we’re going here, right? It has to be the pool scene in The Strangers: Prey At Night. But first, I have to give a shout-out to a personal favorite scene as well: When the man in the mask is bested by Kinsey and experiences not only a gnarly car wreck but is lit on fire and explodes. First off, that look that he gives her here is demonic as hell. It’s kind of how my dog looks at me when I wake him up, and he’s half pissed and out of it.  But as Kinsey walks away like the badass she is, and you think the film is for sure toast…along with potato sack head…. the truck, fully engulfed in flames, starts driving towards her again, and he somehow, still alive, chases her to a bridge before removing a large shard of glass from his stomach and passing out for a moment. 

Look, I know this scene is probably some folks’ least favorite, eliciting laughter and eye rolls from the audience….’ there’s NO WAY that guy is still alive after all that!’ But again, I am a weirdo, and I just LOVE the idea of doing the unexpected in a sequel to an ultra-realistic movie, throwing caution to the wind and surprising an audience with a supernatural twist. Plus, it looked cool as f*ck (bleeped). So did the scene that followed when he’s Halloween IV style chasing her on the bed of a truck in an underratedly creepy atmospheric moment. But I digress. We all know the pool scene is best! What’s that? Is my shirt the best? Well, thank you…. here’s where you can get one.

First off, the neon palm tree lights illuminating the water is just a freaking vibe. When you add to that the musical stylings of Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart? It just takes it off the top rope. But there’s also a lot that happened story-wise here. We see the death of a Pin-up girl when she comes running at Luke and catches a well-earned golf club to the face before Luke goes full Zodiac on her, KILLING one of the strangers! We’ve never seen that before! When the man in the mask shows up, Luke even talks a little shit (after all, they did just kill his parents), and potato sack head goes full berserker mode with the axe. Luke finds his marbles and fights with the lead stranger for a while before a short chase scene takes place. The music even goes in and out as the two go in and out of the water before; sadly, Luke is dispatched with a knife in the back in the same way his mom was. Or was he? Spoiler alert HE LIVES! And so does this scene, in all of our minds, forever. 

Here is where I would usually talk about a villain’s best quote, but that’s a little difficult for a trio of folks who don’t have much to say for themselves other than “Is Tamara home?” (the answer is still no by the way and if she was home, she’d probably ignore you because you seem needy) and “Because you were home”, with maybe a “why not” or “you’re gonna die” thrown in there. They don’t divulge a lot of information about themselves, which leads me to what is most interesting about The Strangers. And that in itself is how mysterious they are. What do we know about these masked nutbars? They like to play with their food before they kill the hell out of it. The closest thing we’ve gotten to insight into who they are is at the end of the first film when they ask these nosey little bastard kids if they can have one of their sinning pamphlets, and one of them reassures the other: “It’ll be easier next time.” That. Is. It. These folks are very Michael Myers (pre-runes, trailer parks, or sibling explanation attempts) in that we have no idea what makes them evil or where that evil comes from. And I like it. Keep it that way! 

We’ll find out if they do just that in Renny Harlin’s upcoming trilogy, but for now, my friends, that is THE BEST OF THE BAD GUYS. Thank you for spending some time with us today, and please be sure to subscribe for more and check out our last two iterations of the series, where we covered both Damien Thorn and Freddy Kruger. And a special thanks to our friend Damian Maffei for taking the time to give us his thoughts in this video as well. You can see him in everything from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre video game as the voice of Johnny Boy or as Columbo in Mutilator 2. You can see me heading to the store right now to buy a weapon and a ring doorbell. Maybe some gummy bears. Just because it sounds nice, have a great day, everyone!

The previous episode of The Best of the Bad Guys can be seen below, along with a sample episode of one of our other shows. To see more, click over to the JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channel – and subscribe while you’re there!

Source: Arrow in the Head

About the Author

125 Articles Published

Lance Vlcek was raised in the aisles of Family Video in the south suburbs of Chicago. He's a fan of fun schlock like Friday The 13th Part 7 and Full Moon Entertainment but also loves genre classics like Evil Dead and Big Trouble In Little China. Lance does many things outside of genre consumption, with his favorites being his homemade Chicago pizza recipe, homemade rum, and video editing. He has four Sugar Gliders, a love for beach bars, and claims Brett Morgen's favorite Bowie album must be Changesonebowie based on his soulless documentary!