Newcomer Bryan Bertino is clearly a director worth watching in future. Bertino puts us through a particularly good workout of suspense and tension. It is not the extreme and sadistic assault of modern works like the Saw sequels and Hostel (2005), just plain effective suspense and jolt surprise. There is one particularly unnerving shot where Liv Tyler goes to the kitchen to get a glass of water and a masked figure appears (for the first time) unnoticed by her in the doorway opposite and is gone as she leaves again it is a scene that makes the audience jump out of their seats in its eeriness. The plot is fairly linear as the genre goes but Bryan Bertino works in some more than effective surprises. Superb use is made of the stereo soundtrack see The Strangers in a theatrical setting if possible where the rattlings and bangings move all around with unnerving regard. About the only effect that does not work is the end shot where Liv Tyler suddenly returns to life, which seems too much of the type of last minute jump that has been to death in slasher films.
One of the more interesting things about the film is how Bryan Bertino leaves all explanations for what is happening unsaid. We never know why the masked people are attacking. At most, Liv Tyler asks Why are you doing this to us? only to be casually told Because you were home. It is the same face of random terror bereft of any explanation that we get in The Birds (1963), Night of the Living Dead (1968), Duel (1971) and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974). Bertino goes so far as to not even show us the faces of the attackers, always looking his camera away when they are unmasked. This even extends to Liv Tyler and Scott Speedmans evening out where it becomes apparent that something went wrong that ruined his plans to propose to her but, although we get flashbacks to earlier in the evening, what happened is deliberately left unsaid.
The film does come with the minus point of being lumbered with two perpetually non-acting leads Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman. Although, once the action kicks in, this is something that absorbs us and neither are required to do too much more than react to things.
A sequel has been announced. Bryan Bertino next made the Found Footage horror film Mockingbird (2014), which returns to similar themes of home invasion by mysterious strangers, and The Monster (2016), as well as to produce The Blackcoats Daughter/February (2015), Hes Out There (2017) and Stephanie (2017).