Effective home invasion horror with Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman's shaky relationship put to the ultimate test during one night of heart-pounding terror. Returning late to Speedman's remote holiday home from a friend's wedding reception, where Tyler has rejected his marriage proposal, the unhappy couple soon find themselves besieged by masked strangers and locked in a deadly game of hide and shriek.
Timid Kristen (Tyler) and embittered James (Speedman) have a relationship on the skids - and then the funny games begin in this unofficial remake of the Franco-Romanian chiller Them.
A slo-o-o-o-o-o-w build racks up the tension as a mysterious girl (Ward) comes calling at 4am asking after someone the couple has never heard of.
But, the knocking continues, becoming more aggressive, until the strangers begin an all-out assault on the secluded house and its inhabitants.
Rather than the 'hoodie horror' of Them, The Strangers sets its ambitions on creating new horror icons with the (possibly) father/mother/daughter killing squad, garbed in fright masks.
Beyond Them, debuting director Bertino has done his homework, riffing on home invasion classics Straw Dogs and Funny Games, borrowing jumps from Halloween and Night of the Living Dead, and lifting the "based on a true story" tag and sombre opening narration from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
But, his ruthlessly efficient ghost train ride knows where to put the camera, characters and audience for maximum shock value.
The first appearance of the mournful-masked intruder is a real spine-tingler, and a double bluff shotgun murder a terrific example of gleeful wrong-footing as Tomandandy and Merle Haggard's country and western menaces the soundtrack.
Tyler and Speedman put trauma settings to 11, while the lean plot keeps rescue tantalisingly out of reach, showing signs of fatigue only in the final stretch.
An effective fear machine, closing with an ending that simultaneously offers a glimmer of hope and is still in the Carrie-climax heart-stopping mould.