It’s not just the terrifying means to the end that was the lifeblood of the effectiveness of the 2008 “The Strangers” original that made it so harrowing. There was also the randomness in which it occurred and the possibility of happening to any of us from a remote location. Within slasher/suspense films, the main antagonist usually has a motive. However, in this case, the chilling compass of the three masked killers is earmarked by one sentence; “Because you were home.” The attacks weren’t a result of an almost lifelong revenge plot, but rather being at the wrong place and time. Bryan Bertino’s original story worked because it was a contained experience. But with Renny Harlin’s remake, which also serves as a jumping-off point for a new trilogy, perhaps there would be some addition to the lore that would make its existence justifiable. 

Photo Credit: Lionsgate

However, you’ll soon note that “The Strangers: Chapter 1” is a paint-by-the-numbers adaptation of its predecessor—the same coda in the beginning, an identical setup of the main leads, and a means to an end with a slight twist to the iconic sentence I mentioned earlier. Alan R. Cohen and Alan Freedland’s story is here to acclimate the audience to the original film’s events while hoping it’s enticing enough for you to stick around for the next two installments. To that token, curiosity exists if you’re itching for answers as to why these three particular people decided to indulge themselves in these devilish games. Maya (Madelaine Petsch) and Ryan (Froy Gutierrez) set off on a romantic getaway in Oregon to celebrate their fifth anniversary and stop in a small town called Venus to get food and gas. The local townspeople don’t look so welcoming, giving concerned looks and sarcastic barbs towards the outsiders’ way. As they try to get on with their journey, something is unexpectedly wrong with Ryan’s car, and it cannot be fixed by the auto repair shop until the morning. Our lovely couple is just in luck because an older man happens to have an Airbnb cabin available for a night’s stay. 

Photo Credit: John Armour/Lionsgate

Maya and Ryan try to make the best of the situation by turning lemons into lemonade. However, that will soon be short-lived, as a couple of creepy encounters with a non-descript person knocking at the door will escalate the situation. “Chapter 1” replaces the notion that the characters are potentially on the outs of their relationship to show they are moving to a big decision in lockstep. If there is a reason why this first installment of a new trilogy is somewhat entertaining, it’s because Petsch and Gutierrez commit themselves to their roles. As the tension gets ratcheted up, you care what happens to them. It’s in the manner that everything devolves where things aren’t so scary. There’s a reliance on an overabundance of jump scares and somewhat duplicate scenarios from 2008. “Chapter 1” hopes to rope in two viewers: people who have seen the original, need a refresher, and want to know where the story goes, and others who haven’t seen any Strangers films.

Maybe you do want to know who Tamara is or are perplexed that the person would seemingly ask two transplants that question twice. Harlin’s version is betting you will want to answer those burning questions as Chapters 2 and 3 loom. Otherwise, “Chapter 1” is more of a skeleton or entry point for rolling the dice to see if this particular piece of horror IP has legs to tell more stories to warrant the first film happening.