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Where is The Strangers Part 2?

Production limbo and full script details

If a studio is going to sequelize a horror hit, I’ve always believed there’s a certain window of time to get the job done. Capture the momentum, so to speak.

In the last ten years, Saw, Final Destination, Jeepers Creepers, 28 Days Later have all gotten it right – not in terms of quality, but in recognizing that if there is going to be a sequel, it needs to be executed in a certain period of time. Until Saw‘s last entry – which underperformed – I would say the Lionsgate franchise was the most successful at what it does (again, I’m not talking about how good or bad the film is, but in terms of how it performs), but I’d now have to pass the kudos on to Final Destination. There’s a healthy three years between each film – an adequate amount of time, more than that is too long – and they have consistently make bucks.

Now, if The Strangers Part 2 doesn’t pull itself out of the limbo I hear the film is currently in, it might miss that window.

The Strangers opened on the cusp of the summer movie season in 2008. A stalk ‘n kill horror film starring Liv Tyler, Scott Speedman and a trio of unknowns who never show their faces (because they’re wearing creepy, simple disguises), the film featured an unknown writer-director from Texas named Bryan Bertino and grossed $20 million opening weekend. Worldwide, it took in $82 million (domestic: around $52 million). Not bad for a genre flick up against the summer blockbusters.

All parties involved – Rogue, Mandate, Intrepid Pictures and Vertigo Entertainment – were happy with the film’s performance and talk of a sequel began in 2008 when Rogue asked Bertino to draft a script. The spring of 2009 brought word of a director being attached: France’s Laurent Briet, who worked briefly in visual effects. He did a few short films, but The Strangers Part 2 will be his feature debut. The Hollywood trade paper Variety stated filming would begin in the fall of ‘09. Clearly that didn’t happen and now many fans of the original are questioning the sequel’s whereabouts.

It seems when Relativity Media purchased Rogue Pictures in 2009, a number of projects were shaken up. I’ve spoken to a few sources who tell me Relativity is currently figuring out if The Strangers Part 2 is a right fit for them, even though distributor Universal is willing to release it. Peculiar, since it would seem to be a no-brainer.

Bertino’s script is complete and he has slightly adjusted a sequence that would call for Liv Tyler to reprise her role as Kristen McKay in a Friday the 13th Part 2-esque nod. Fortunately, no, there is no back story to be explored with the “Strangers” this time (although some execs, I’m told, were pushing hard for some explanation as to where the Strangers came from). Instead, the sequel focuses on a family of four who are hit hard by the economy and hit even harder by the mysterious trio of killers who are still on a murder spree.

The father is a fella named Mike who has lost his job, furthermore, his home. The film kicks off, following a shocker opening, with Mike, his wife Cindy, his teenage son Luke and young daughter Kinsey loading their belongings into a moving truck. Their home has been foreclosed and they now need to find a place to crash for the night before moving on and staying with a grandmother. Low on cash, they eschew staying at a hotel.

Mike chooses to relocate his family, just for the night, to a trailer park also hit by the town’s apparent massive lay-offs and economic tough times. It’s a labyrinthine patch of land of supposedly abandoned trailers and they select one formerly owned by a friend. Luke and Kinsey are understandably upset about the situation and after a blow-out fight with his father, Luke decides to explore the grounds. Kinsey tags along and together they find the bodies of an elderly couple in a trailer. It appears the Strangers have targeted those who haven’t moved out of this trailer park and Mike’s family is next.

The sequel plays out like another cat and mouse chase. All three Strangers are accounted for – the Man in the Mask, Pin-Up Girl and Doll face. And what’s noticeably different this time out is the visceral impact Bertino makes. Where subtlety played so heavily in the first film, this is a straight-up go-for-the-throat slasher pic. Very Texas Chainsaw Massacre as opposed to Halloween, to draw a parallel in terms of tone.

Bertino whittles down the family emotionally and physically, pushing them to the limits, making a few surprising kills and leaving only one alive. He also relies – perhaps a bit too often – on familiar tricks from the first film. There’s a lot of “emerging from the shadows” sort of business when one of the Strangers makes an attack. The fury of the Man in the Mask (wielding an axe) makes for a particularly cool slaughter sequence. And the pick-up truck the Strangers drive figures prominently in much of the action, too.

With a bit of trimming – furthermore repositioning or cutting the Kristen McKay sequence altogether (because where it rests in the narrative does not work at all) – The Strangers Part 2 could work and would please fans of the original. Bertino does pull the rug out from under you a few times in the third act; overall, it has much more going on than the previous entry and elicits more sympathy for the leads. An improvement, for sure, but it doesn’t break any new ground in the grand scope of the slasher genre.

Young actress Abigail Breslin recently voiced in the press that she’d love to do more horror films. Well, she’s the right age for Kinsey and she’d be ideal for this…

But will the sequel see the light of day? Something tells me 2010 will be the make or break year for the project.


Source: Ryan Rotten, Managing Editor