6 Maritime Horror Films for Fans of the ‘Dredge’ Video Game
Horror

6 Maritime Horror Films for Fans of the ‘Dredge’ Video Game

A couple of years ago, I started a recurring column called The Silver Lining, where I’d write about horror films that were generally considered to be bad but also had good elements that warranted revisiting. This wasn’t just a way of talking about underappreciated films, but also a personal challenge to try and see past the internet’s negative bias and learn to appreciate the little things that can make a scary movie worth watching.

I was recently reminded of this challenge with the release of Renny Harlin’s The Strangers: Chapter 1, a film so poorly received by both fans and critics that I honestly had no intention of seeing it until I read a post by The Horror Queers Trace Thurman playfully comparing the flick to a Platinum Dunes remake – something that immediately made me think that the flick might not be as bad as some folks were making it out to be.

Cautiously optimistic, I decided to purchase a ticket to a late-night showing, where I was greeted by a packed theater filled with excited teenagers. And you know what? I had a blast, as I’m sure most of the other screaming patrons did too. And with the film doing gangbusters at the box-office, it appears that the risky choice of filming three interconnected slashers back-to-back has paid off despite middling reviews.

Nevertheless, a vocal minority of horror fans have decided that there’s absolutely no chance that these upcoming films can be any good, a notion that I vehemently disagree with. That’s why I’d like to take a deeper look at The Strangers: Chapter 1 and discuss the elements that I think make it a fun slasher and why I believe the sequels will be even better.

Of course, in order to fully understand the film, we have to look back on the context in which it was produced, which takes us back to the release of The Strangers: Prey at Night back in 2018. While that film was surprisingly successful despite the glaring difference in tone when compared to the original, the long gestation time between projects combined with the shutdown of Aviron Pictures led to series creator Bryan Bertino deciding that the next entry in the franchise should be a re-introduction to the terrifying masked family.

The Strangers Chapter 1 trailer

Choosing Deep Blue Sea director Renny Harlin to helm this new project, Bertino encouraged the veteran filmmaker to collaborate with producer Courtney Solomon in order to develop the premise into what they went on to describe as an expanded character study rather than a traditional slasher. Screenwriters Alan R. Cohen and Alan Freedland then turned the duo’s notes and ideas into a massive 250-page first draft. However, instead of having the writers trim the story down into a breezy 100 pages, the production team was so excited with the new direction that they instead decided to split the giant screenplay into three standalone parts of a consecutively shot slasher epic.

Despite several bizarre claims to the contrary, the first entry in this trilogy serves as a modern retelling of the 2008 original, following loving couple Maya (Madelaine Petsch) and Ryan (Froy Gutierrez) as their cross-country road trip is interrupted by suspicious car trouble. Stranded in a small town, the couple books a last-minute Airbnb only to find themselves being stalked by a masked group of homicidal killers who like to play games with their prey.

The overall plot is nearly identical to the first film’s, only expanding on character introductions and establishing the eerily isolated setting of Venus, Oregon. And while the things that the movie tries to do the same as the original are mostly done worse (like the iconic “is Tamara here?” scene or the accidental killing of an innocent side character), Chapter 1 excels at small changes meant to make this feel like a new incident following the same pattern as what happened back in ’08.

My favorite change to the formula has to be how likeable the main couple is this time around. Sure, you can’t beat Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman when it comes to sheer star power (and that brief Glenn Howerton appearance has become legendary in retrospect due to the actor’s success on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), but the fact that this iteration of the couple is engaged in a healthy and functional partnership from the very beginning makes it much easier to root for them once they come under siege by an external threat.

And that threat is just as terrifying now as it was back in 2008. The film stumbles a bit by adding shock music to some of its jump scares, something that the original brilliantly avoided, but I thought that all of the new scares were quite effective when judged by their own merits. From an impressive mirror scare while Maya plays the piano to a couple of welcome nods to the Friday the 13th franchise, it’s clear that Harlin and his team weren’t content with simply reenacting Bertino’s work.

Strangers Pinup Girl

Again, the experience isn’t perfect, with the film taking a bit longer than necessary to set everything in motion and fumbling some familiar moments – and I actually despise the new version of the iconic “because you were home” line – but I’d argue that it all comes together in the end because of the flick’s novel tone, which I think falls somewhere in-between the first film’s minimalist terror and Prey at Night’s retro slasher excess. It also features genre veteran Richard Brake in a small role (which I’m almost certain will be expanded on in the sequel), which is always a treat.

And once it’s revealed that this isn’t the last time we’ll be seeing these characters, it becomes clear that the overly-familiar script is justified by the fact that it’s simply the opening act of a larger story. On its own, Chapter 1 is a decent enough slasher, featuring enough new thrills to justify its existence (though that piano scare is an all-timer for me), but as the start of an epic four-and-a-half-hour horror experiment, it’s an excellent introduction that will likely be better appreciated once the other entries are released.

After all, the sequels will no longer be shackled to that iconic first film and can instead explore brand new territory as they follow a traumatized final girl searching for retribution after a tragic home invasion. This kind of innovation wouldn’t be possible without first re-introducing The Strangers to a new generation, and that’s why I think Chapter 1 is a necessary recap that will lead to even better follow-ups.

Besides, even if you don’t like Renny Harlin’s new take on Scarecrow, Dollface and Pin-Up Girl, remember that a new film can never replace the original – so there’s no need to grab torches and pitchforks as we wait for the rest of the trilogy.

The Strangers: Chapter 1 is now available on Digital at home.

Originally Published Here.

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