As children, we all probably heard this line once, or twice, or a million times from our parents: never talk to strangers. But unless you live under a rock, most of us encounter a number of strangers every day; things like striking up a conversation in an elevator, asking for directions, or seeking advice from someone you don’t know may seem harmless at best. And besides, strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet, right? That’s exactly what they want you to think…
IFC Midnight will release Killing Ground in theaters and on VOD July 21st. In honor of the film’s release, here are 5 lessons we learned from five different films that show us that you might be better off listening to your folks’ advice on this one.
Killing Ground (Damien Power, 2017)
Lesson to Learn: Don’t ever ask a stranger for directions.
Ian and Sam decide to take a road-trip with the intent of escaping the city for a peaceful vacation. Unsure of their exact destination, the couple seeks advice and asks for directions from a local resident named German. Ian and Sam eventually make their way to nearby scenic, secluded falls. Secluded is they key word here… what happens next to Ian and Sam will undoubtedly convince you that planning ahead and knowing your own directions is the way to go. Especially if you’ll be camping in the woods…
OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS: A couple’s romantic camping trip becomes a desperate fight for survival in this ultra-raw, unhinged kill ride. In need of a break from the pressures of their life in the city, Sam (Harriet Dyer) and Ian (Ian Meadows) head to a remote beach for a weekend getaway. When they come across an abandoned campsite, with no trace of its occupants, they’re concerned. When they discover a lone, traumatized child nearby, they’re scared. And when they encounter two local weirdos, they’re in for a hell of a bad time. Unfolding in an innovative, time-scrambling structure, Killing Ground delivers both nerve-shredding suspense and gut-punching realism.
The Strangers (Bryan Bertino, 2008)
Lesson to Learn: Don’t ever answer a random knock on your door.
After returning from a wedding reception, Kristen and James head to an isolated vacation home for the weekend. However, their plans of peace and relaxation are cut extremely short when the couple begins receiving strange knocks on the door in the middle of the night. Their vacation quickly turns into a nightmare as three masked strangers begin terrorizing the couple. So next time you get a strange knock on your door in the mid-hours of the night, just don’t answer it. It could be a door-to-door salesman or friends dropping by for an unexpected visit—but whatever you do, don’t answer the door. Because let’s be real, real friends would call first.
OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS: Kristen (Liv Tyler) and James (Scott Speedman) are expecting a relaxing weekend at a family vacation home, but their stay turns out to be anything but peaceful. First, a mysterious and dangerous woman arrives at the door while James is out on an errand. When he returns, he accidentally kills his friend Mike (Glenn Howerton), mistaking him for an intruder. And then real danger does show up — in the form of three masked torturers, leaving Kristen and James struggling for survival.
Room (Lenny Abrahamson, 2015)
Lesson to Learn: Don’t ever get into a stranger’s car.
Joy was abducted from her college campus after being approached by a stranger who asked for her help in finding his lost dog. With the best of intentions, Joy agrees and gets into the strange man’s car. The situation takes a seriously dark turn when the stranger’s true motives are revealed, and results in Joy being held captive against her will for several years before finally plotting her escape. With the proliferation of rideshare services nowadays, hopping into a stranger’s car feels like no big deal. But ROOM should remind us all to be a little wary next time we get into the backseat of a stranger’s vehicle. Lead actress Brie Larson won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in the film.
OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS: Held captive for years in an enclosed space, a woman (Brie Larson) and her young son (Jacob Tremblay) finally gain their freedom, allowing the boy to experience the outside world for the first time.
When a Stranger Calls (Simon West, 2006)
Lesson to Learn: Don’t ever pick up an unknown number.
Jill Johnson, a normal teenager, is forced to take up a babysitting job in a massive three-story lake-home in order to pay off her excessive telephone bill. Although she is all alone in a big house with the children, things seem to be going smoothly once Jill gets the kids to sleep. But then the phone rings. Jill picks up the phone, and a stranger on the other end begins saying alarming things. At first, Jill brushes the stranger’s calls off as a joke. But when she finally realizes the stranger’s threats are real, it may already be too late. Point blank: don’t pick up unknown calls from strangers. This is a remake of a classic 1979 horror film with Carol Kane.
OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS: Far away from the site of a gruesome murder, a teenager named Jill Johnson (Camilla Belle) arrives at a luxurious home for a baby-sitting job. With the children fast asleep, she settles in for what she expects to be an ordinary evening. Soon, the ringing of a phone and the frightening words of a sadistic caller turn Jill’s routine experience into a night of terror.
The Lovely Bones (Peter Jackson, 2009)
Lesson to Learn: People don’t have to be complete strangers to be potential threats.
On her way home from school one day, Susie decides to take a shortcut through a field, only to run into George Harvey. George happens to be her neighbor who she does not know very well at all. After making small talk, George explains to Susie he wants to show her something he just built for the entire neighborhood to enjoy. Unsurprisingly, Susie’s curiosity gets the best of her, and since George is someone who she sort of knows, she trusts that he’s telling the truth. When Harvey leads Susie down a trap door in the middle of the field, it doesn’t take long for her to realize that she should have gone straight home. The film proves that the most dangerous strangers aren’t always people you have never met before, but instead, can be someone you thought you already knew.
OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS: After being brutally murdered, 14-year-old Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) watches from heaven over her grief-stricken family (Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz) — and her killer (Stanley Tucci). As she observes their daily lives, she must balance her thirst for revenge with her desire for her family to heal.
So, remember next time you meet a stranger, or if someone approaches you or you get a call from an unknown number, based on these films, you may want to think twice.
And don’t miss Killing Ground in theaters on July 21st from IFC Midnight. Thank you to the crew at Katrina Wan PR for helping with this editorial.