The Strangers Ending, Explained
‘The Strangers’ is a psychological horror home invasion film that finds Kristen and James trapped in their summer house with three murderous strangers. As the masked invaders relentlessly torment the couple, forcing them to make rash decisions, the film also speaks to a larger, scarier phenomenon of senseless stranger-on-stranger violence.
Many aspects have helped the film become a cult favorite over the years, not the least of which are the chilling villains of the movie that seem to have unknown motives, making their heinous crimes all the more appalling. The film is not one for slowing down or reiterating plot points and instead goes through the story much like the Masked Man’s ax through the Hoyt household’s front door — swiftly and relentlessly. Let’s take a closer look at ‘The Strangers’s ending. SPOILERS AHEAD.
The Strangers Plot Synopsis
‘The Strangers’ opens with scenes of houses on a residential street going by as they are watched through a car window. The area becomes more and more isolated until the car is in the outskirts of a nameless city, where the houses are dark and very far apart. We then see James and Kristen returning to James’ father’s house after attending a wedding reception.
There is tension between them as moments ago, Kristen has rejected James’ proposal for marriage. Upon reaching home, the two briefly speak before they are interrupted by a knock at the door. At this point, it is 4 am, and James cautiously opens the door to find a blonde girl standing in the darkness outside. She asks for “Tamara,” who James claims to not know, and the girl subsequently goes away.
James then goes out briefly, leaving Kristen all by herself in the house. A resounding bang on the front door startles Kristen, and she sees that the blonde woman is back. She then notices that the smoke alarm (which she had disconnected and placed on the floor) has been placed on a chair by someone. As she stands in the middle of the living room, petrified, we see a masked man in the corridor behind her, watching.
Soon after, James comes back but refuses to believe Kristen when she tells him about the intruder. However, when he goes out and notices his car vandalized and his phone missing, he realizes that they are marooned on their property with the invaders and have no way to get outside help. James and Kristen try to flee in their car but are rear-ended by a third aggressor, a brunette woman in a pin-up girl mask. They then go back inside the house where James finds his dad’s old gun.
However, in a panic, he accidentally shoots his friend Mike, who had come to the house to pick up James. Realizing their only chance of getting out alive is to call for help, James attempts to get to the shed behind the house but is overpowered by the man in the mask. Kristen is similarly overpowered, and the couple finds themselves tied in their living room facing their three tormentors.
The Strangers Ending: Who are the Killers?
Kristen tries desperately to reason with them, but to no avail. The three masked intruders then remove their masks and take turns stabbing James and Kristen through the stomach and chest. We see Kristen briefly regain consciousness and attempt to use a phone, which is wordlessly taken away from her by the masked man. The three intruders then finally leave, and we see them stop on the way and briefly talk to two young boys distributing Mormon pamphlets.
The blonde woman takes one of the flyers, saying she occasionally sins, and the three murderers continue on their way. We then see the boys arrive at James and Kristen’s house, where a bloodbath has occurred. The frightened boys look through the house, and as one of them reaches to touch a seemingly unconscious Kristen, she suddenly grabs his hand and screams.
So the big question that our unfortunate protagonists were probably pondering the entire time must now be answered by us, namely — who were the masked intruders? They are wordless throughout the film, barely speaking a few times and not revealing their faces till the very end. Even when they do take off their masks, the audience does not get to see their faces. The only thing we can tell about the three is that the two women seem to be relatively young. We also learn that the blonde woman is new to killing, as the brunette woman tells her that “it gets easier.”
Hence at least two of the intruders — the masked man and the brunette woman — are accomplished killers who have most likely done what they did to James and Kristen before. This would also explain the well-practiced efficiency with which the tormentors are able to break into the house and seemingly appear and disappear at will in the dark. It is also worth noting the reverence with which they commit the murders and pass the knife between them. What we have most likely seen is the blonde woman’s initiation into ritualistic murder, where she is slowly handed the knife by the masked man and then proceeds to stab Kristen.
The fact that so little is known about the murderers is, in part, to keep their universality intact. It is the same reason why the town where James and Kristen live remains unnamed. The filmmakers want to put the audience in the shoes of the protagonists, who have their home invaded, to point out that such random acts of violence can happen to anyone, anywhere. This works in making the movie all the more ominous.
Why Did the Masked Trio Attack Kristen and James?
Much like their faces, the motives of the three killers remain unknown and shrouded in mystery. From what we see, however, it looks like the murder is an act of violence that is committed purely for the sake of violence. We learn as such when Kristen asks, “Why are you doing this,” to which the blonde woman replies, “Because you were home.” This shows how the selection of the couple was a part of the fatal spree is almost completely random.
A major factor in James and Kristen being selected as victims is most likely the location and size of their house. A situation like the one we see could never have happened in a more crowded area. It is, therefore, only because they live in an isolated area that James and Kristen fall victim. We can also tell that the perpetrators are in the habit of ambushing people who live in remote places by how efficiently they disable all the ways in which the couple can contact the outside world.
Is Kristen Dead or Alive?
In the closing scenes of the movie, the masked man notices Kristen trying to make a phone call from her dead friend Mike’s phone. He takes the phone away from her but leaves Kristen alive. Considering she has seen him and his companions’ faces, this seems like a very dangerous thing to do as she could identify him to the authorities. However, it looks like the criminals are not very concerned about getting caught. Despite them being quick to cut all forms of communication so Kristen and James can’t call anyone for help, they are quite liberal with leaving evidence behind.
This, once again, gives us an insight into the killers’ psyche, wherein they were more interested in violence than the actual death of the person. The senselessness of the crime follows into its execution as well, which, though planned, does not make logical sense. Hence, it looks like the killers are neither interested in the death of a particular person nor are they overly concerned about getting caught, which is emphasized by the relaxed conversation they have with the young boys soon after leaving the house instead of trying to remain inconspicuous.
Read More: Is The Strangers Based on a True Story?