Glenn Watson
Owen Gleiberman
May 29, 2008 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Crashing at a suburban ranch house, a couple (Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman) is menaced by a trio of masked psychos. It sounds stupid enough, and ultimately is, but the director, Bryan Bertino, stages The Strangers‘ early scenes with spooky panache. The first killer, in his burlap disguise, creeps into the painterly, low-lit frame with ghostly quiet; for a while, the fear is vivid in a J-horror knockoff way. But then comes the blood, the shrieking midnight chase scenes, the anything-goes over-the-top-ness. In other words, everything that we liked the movie for not being. B-

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