Back inside the house, Kristen and James find a shotgun and wait for the thugs in a bedroom. Mike arrives and realizes something is wrong after seeing James' vandalized car. He enters the house, and James, mistaking him for one of the intruders, shoots him dead. Devastated, James remembers an old radio transmitter in a barn on the property. He leaves and encounters the brunette woman, searching the backyard with a flashlight. When James tries to shoot her, the masked man ambushes him and knocks him unconscious, inadvertently discharging the rifle. Kristen hears the shot and runs to the barn. She finds the radio, but the brunette woman smashes it with an axe. Kristen rushes back to the house where she encounters the blonde woman, who taunts her with a knife. She tries to escape but is incapacitated by the masked man. At dawn, the couple awaken to find themselves tied to chairs in the living room with the intruders standing before them. Kristen attempts to reason with the strangers, before demanding an explanation, to which the blonde woman replies, "Because you were home."
The offenders unmask themselves to Kristen and James before taking turns stabbing them in the chest and abdomen. Afterwards, the thugs drive away in their truck and come across two young boys on bicycles distributing religious tracts. The blonde woman steps out of the truck and asks if she can have one of their tract cards. One of the boys asks her, "Are you a sinner?" to which she responds, "Sometimes." The boy gives her one, and the strangers drive away as the brunette woman states, "It'll be easier next time." The two boys come upon the house, where they discover the bloodied bodies of Kristen, James, and Mike inside. One of the boys approaches Kristen's body and attempts to touch it. As he reaches out to her, Kristen, still alive, startles him by grabbing his hand and screaming.
In interviews, Bertino stated he was "very impressed" with some of the theories circulating on the Internet about the "true events" the movie is allegedly based on, but said that his main inspiration was the true crime book Helter Skelter, which is about the Manson Family murders; some journalists speculated that the film was also inspired by the unsolved Keddie Cabin Murders of 1981 that occurred in a small vacation community in California's Sierra Nevada. The film's premise has been compared by some film critics to the French horror film Them, released two years earlier, which also features a couple terrorized by strangers in their remote home.
Film editor Kevin Greutert was hired to edit the film; at the time, he had recently finished editing Saw III. Several changes were made to the film during post-production, primarily regarding the conclusion: In the screenplay and the original footage shot, the three masked strangers reveal their faces on camera. After the sequence in which Kristen and James are stabbed, the strangers wander around the house, cleaning up parts of the crime scene before dressing into Kristen and James's clothes. Following test screenings, it was decided by the producers that the strangers' faces should remain unseen to the audience, which required the sequences following the stabbing to be excised.
After returning from a wedding reception, a couple staying in an isolated vacation house receive a knock on the door in the mid-hours of the night. What ensues is a violent invasion by three strangers, their faces hidden behind masks. The couple find themselves in a violent struggle, in which they go beyond what either of them thought capable in order to survive.
According to the film's production notes, The Strangers was based on an experience the director, Bryan Bertino, had when he was young. "As a kid, I lived in a house on a street in the middle of nowhere. One night, while our parents were out, somebody knocked on the front door and my little sister answered it," Bertino recounted. "At the door were some people asking for somebody that didn't live there. We later found out that these people were knocking on doors in the area and, if no one was home, breaking into the houses." So, really, the only thing the story shared with reality was a group of strangers knocking on a door to a random house and making a decision based on whether or not the owners were home.
I started the Strangers Project in 2009 as a small experiment. What I thought would be a one day exploration of the strangers we share space with every day turned into something I never could have imagined.
2008 horror movie The Strangers cleverly subverts this premise, becoming scary precisely because it could happen to anyone watching the film. Indeed, while critical consensus remains split on The Strangers' plot, the efficacy of the film's horror elements is unquestioned as a sadistic portrait of a home invasion. While The Strangers' insular premise introduces very few characters outside of Kristen (Liv Tyler), James (Scott Speedman), and the three strangers, and this microcosmic nature allows an almost unparalleled ratcheting of tension as a young couple fights tooth and nail for their lives. Despite the almost ethereal nature of its masked antagonists, The Strangers true story is based on a few. Several harrowing real-life crimes form the backbone of The Strangers' core narrative, including several notorious murders. Here are the real-life crimes and true stories that inspired The Strangers.
In THE STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT, troublemaking teen Kinsey (Bailee Madison) is being shipped off to a boarding school by her exasperated but loving parents, Cindy (Christina Hendricks) and Mike (Martin Henderson). Kinsey's older brother, Luke (Lewis Pullman), joins them for the road trip to the school. They stop at a mobile home park to spend the night, but, just as they're about to settle in, they're visited by an unusual young woman. Then, Kinsey and Luke find an open trailer with two dead bodies inside. Realizing that all their phones have been disabled, the family members try to escape, but eerie masked killers are on the attack. As the bodies begin to fall, Kinsey and Luke try to fight back, but the "strangers" are everywhere...
The three masked strangers begin harassing a couple, Kristen McKay and James Hoyt, from and within their summer vacation home. First, Dollface knocks on the door to ask if an unknown girl is home. When discovering that only Kristen and James currently occupy the residence, she leaves to join the other two, who had been hiding within the surrounding wood. Later, James leaves the home to get cigarettes while Kristen remains in the house. After a few more attempts to harass the couple, the strangers later find their way inside, when Kristen is alone, and begin to move objects and lurk within the house, all in the effort to later terrify her. While Kristen enjoys a cigarette in the kitchen, unbeknownst to her, the Man in Mask begins silently observing her while lurking in the background, however he doesn't make himself known and simply vanishes before she notices his presence.
James attempts to go and get help, but is captured. Kristen tries to contact help, but is later captured, as well. The strangers tie up James and Kristen, and when Kristen asks why they are doing this, Doll-face simply replies calmly "Because you were home". The trio then unmask themselves (although their faces aren't directly shown to the viewer) and take turns in stabbing the couple with a blade. Once done, the couple were untied and the three leave. When driving down the road they come across two Mormon Boys. They stop and Doll face asks for a leaflet. When one of the boys ask if she is a sinner, Dollface replies "Sometimes". After receiving the leaflet, the three of them drive off, with Pin-up Girl promising "It will be easier next time."
The M.O. of "the strangers" is to approach isolated homes and knock on the door late at night. If the door is answered, they ask for someone who likely doesn't live there. When they are told that they are not home, they then pretend to leave and return to terrorize and, later, murder the inhabitants of the home. They do this by removing their masks, binding them up and taking turns slowly stabbing them until they die from their injuries. The way they torment their victims increases in intensity, starting off with moving objects inside the house and banging on the windows and doors, then escalating to staring at them from outside and chasing them around. The identities of the strangers are deliberately left ambiguous to make them more mysterious and frightening. Overall, the three characters are very mysterious with no apparent personalities, and very few observable details about their characters. They have no apparent motives for their actions other than sadism. Based on Dollface's response to Kristen's demands to know why they were targeted for this torment, it can be argued that The Strangers target completely random people who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The strangers apparently enjoy the thrill they get from tormenting and stalking their victims, however all three killers are totally indifferent to the pain and suffering they cause, and, strangely, do not appear to enjoy it very much, as all three are totally detached emotionally from the things they do, suggesting that they are sociopaths. They take their time with what they do, as shown by how they terrorize Kristen and James from four in the morning until daytime, likely as late as ten in the morning, and taking the time to put Kristen into her nice dress before stabbing her. They also may take things from their victims, such as clothing. This is shown when the Man in the Mask changes from the brown suit he was wearing to a blue outfit that he may have taken from the closet.
Although serial killers are typically Caucasian males, there is only one man who wears some sort of cloth bag (similar to Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th: Part II) over his head with a blank expression drawn on it, possibly a small grin. He is credited as "The Man in the Mask" but is also called "Sackhead" or "Baghead" by fans. The "Man in Mask" is the only member of the trio not to have a line of dialogue. A brief glimpse of the side of his face shows that he has a beard. The "Man in the Mask" is also the only member of the group to not wear a vintage style vacuform face mask with a pop-art design. All three masks are simple and unique and it is entirely plausible that the strangers made their masks themselves. Dollface is a young woman with long blonde hair, and the one who talks the most, although she still seldom speaks, and when she does, barely raises her voice above a whisper and talks in a low, flat tone with no emotion whatsoever.