The Strangers: Chapter 1 still
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The Strangers: Chapter 1 poster

The Strangers: Chapter 1 opens with titles claiming that, according to the FBI, over 1.4 million violent crimes occur in America each year. Screenwriters Alan R. Cohen and Alan Freedland didn’t bother doing any research to arrive at this number, however. They simply lifted the metric, along with the basic scenario and several lines of dialogue, straight from writer-director Bryan Bertino’s The Strangers from 2008. Bertino’s original also cited 1.4 million violent crimes per year, a number that, in reality, has gone down in recent years. Chapter 1 has been called a prequel, so maybe it takes place in 2008, but it doesn’t look that way, given the contemporary smartphones. And that’s just one example of the confusion and laziness you can expect from this reboot-prequel thing, a curious undertaking designed to restart the franchise with a whole trilogy—shot simultaneously and spread out over four-and-a-half hours, all three installments directed by Renny Harlin and slated for release over the next year by the distributor, Lionsgate. But Chapter 1 amounts to an overfamiliar reworking of the original, too similar to feel like something new, and too full of banalities to distinguish itself. It’s an inauspicious start to a trilogy, instilling almost zero interest in what awaits in the second and third parts.

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