The Strangers: Chapter 1 Retreads Very Familiar Ground

Photo Credit: John Armour for Lionsgate; © 2023 Lionsgate

I’m a big fan of the Strangers franchise. Like many horror fans, I love the original 2008 film, and I even like the sequel, The Strangers: Prey at Night. So when I first heard that a reboot trilogy was in the works, I felt a bit conflicted. On the one hand, I’m always up for more Strangers movies, but on the other hand, horror remakes are notoriously hit or miss (and that’s being generous!). I really didn’t know what to expect from these films, but as usual, I knew I had to see them for myself. I bought a ticket for The Strangers: Chapter 1 as soon as I could, and now that I’ve finally had the chance to watch it, I’m sad to report that it’s a classic case of a remake that doesn’t justify its existence.

The Strangers: Chapter 1 was directed by Renny Harlin, and it stars Madelaine Petsch and Froy Gutierrez as Maya and Ryan, a couple who are traveling to Portland on their fifth anniversary. Along the way, they stop in a small town called Venus to grab a bite to eat, and when they try to get back on the road, they find that their car isn’t working. The local mechanic offers to fix it, but he doesn’t currently have the part he needs to replace.

He’ll get it the next day, and in the meantime, Maya and Ryan have to stay the night at a local Airbnb. Luckily, one of the waitresses at the diner offers to drive them there, but soon after they arrive, their lives turn into a waking nightmare. They quickly find themselves under attack by a trio of masked assailants, and they have to fight tooth and nail to survive.

Two people sitting on a porch
Photo Credit: John Armour for Lionsgate; © 2024 Lionsgate

In other words, The Strangers: Chapter 1 basically tells the exact same story as the original The Strangers, but there’s one big difference. Unlike the couple in that first film, Maya and Ryan didn’t break up right before arriving at their vacation spot. Instead, they’re experiencing car troubles, and while that might seem like an insignificant change, it actually makes a world of difference.

See, when Maya and Ryan stop in Venus, it almost feels like the filmmakers had a momentary lapse and thought they were remaking Deliverance instead of The Strangers. Many of the locals are hostile to the couple, and it even seems like the mechanic might’ve sabotaged their car while they were eating.

In fact, it feels like everything that happens, from the car breaking down to the waitress driving them to the Airbnb, was planned to lead Maya and Ryan to their deaths, and you get the impression that the town has a habit of doing this to unwanted visitors. The Strangers: Chapter 1 opens with an unknown character being killed by the titular villains, and the lead couple sees a “missing” poster with his picture on it in the diner. 

Granted, none of this is direct confirmation, but when you put it all together, it makes a very convincing case that the killers in this movie are just xenophobic psychos who don’t like people driving through their town. And in my opinion, that’s a huge mistake. Part of what makes the original The Strangers such a classic is that the villains have absolutely no discernible motive. The best we get is the famous line “Because you were home,” but that’s not much of an explanation. As far as we can tell, the attack is totally random, and that’s absolutely terrifying.

A masked killer in the woods
Photo credit: John Armour/Lionsgate; © 2024 Lionsgate

However, in The Strangers: Chapter 1, we get a tiny glimpse into these killers’ inner workings. Granted, it’s not much, but it’s enough to ruin their mystique. It makes the whole scenario much more run-of-the-mill, so for this movie to have any chance of success, the home invasion itself has to really knock it out of the park.

But unfortunately, it just feels like a soulless rehash of the original film. The killers basically spend the entire movie toying with their victims, so we get almost the exact same scares we saw back in 2008. To take just one example, there’s a scene where Maya is taking a shower, and unbeknownst to her, one of the villains walks right up to the shower and stands outside it for a few seconds without being noticed.

Now, that’s super creepy in theory, but in The Strangers: Chapter 1, it just feels played out. Not only have we seen this kind of stuff before, but we know exactly where it’s all headed as well, and that saps the film of any tension or suspense it might’ve otherwise had. No matter how much danger Maya and Ryan were in, I simply couldn’t bring myself to worry about them, so I spent more time checking my watch than I did gripping my armrests or balancing tenuously on the edge of my seat.

Seriously, The Strangers: Chapter 1 is just The Strangers if it had been made in 2024, so this is the worst kind of horror remake. Not only does it retread way too much familiar ground, but it also misunderstands why the original film worked so well. It simply doesn’t do anything to justify its existence, so if you ever want to watch a movie about a couple being terrorized by three masked killers, you should choose the original over the remake. Every single time.

The Strangers: Chapter 1 is in theaters right now.

Written by JP Nunez

JP Nunez is a lifelong movie fan, and his favorite genres are horror, superheroes, and giant monsters.


Leave a Reply
  1. Yeah, actually took the day off work to see this… knowing that the occasional remake/reboot can work and given this had a theatrical release rather than say the streaming debut of “Prey”… I was optimistic. Well that optimism was quenched within the first 15 minutes, and with the exception of two set pieces, one involving a nail and the other some leaves(Yeah don’t ask) this was almost beat for beat the same as the original (the ending IS different, but only to entice the audience into seeing Chapter 2) except that it is almost IMPOSSIBLE to give a toss about the leads because they do the dumbest things.
    The original works because you care about the leads and what is happening to them and what led to where they were. In this version I was struggling to remember the characters names, let alone care, In fact I was rooting for the killers. I am waiting for Chapter 2 with the hope that it may actually use what chapter 1 did and do a thorough expansion on the mythology and concept of The Strangers… but I have a feeling if I hope in one hand and pee in the other the per hand will be more fulfilled

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch: Bad Taste (S5E4)

Two kids watching TV

I Saw the TV Glow Is a Beautiful Exploration of Melancholy and Identity