THE STRANGERS — ** — Liv Tyler, Scott Speedman; rated R (violence, gore, profanity, brief sex, slurs)

Screenwriter/director Bryan Bertino has clearly watched the original, 1978 version of "Halloween" a lot.

His suspense-thriller "The Strangers" features some of the same nightmarish imagery, and it even tries to mimic some very specific bits from that earlier film, such as the now-classic, hiding-in-the-closet sequence.

Unfortunately, aside from the obvious visual "homages" to the John Carpenter horror classic, there's really not much more to this movie. It gets less scary and less tense as it goes along.

And it's extremely disappointing to see that it also gets considerably more graphic and violent as its progresses.

"The Strangers" was allegedly based on a true incident — one that also inspired the 2006 French-language horror hit "Them."

Scott Speedman and Liv Tyler star as James Hoyt and Kristen McKay, a young couple that is already having a bad night. James was planning to propose to Kristen, but that's gone badly.

They're staying at his parents' spooky summer home, which has some unexpected visitors. First, a creepy blonde (Gemma Ward) shows up in the middle of the night asking for someone named Tamara.

The couple quickly sends her away, but the interruptions keep coming. The annoying mysterious door-knocking and pranks turn more violent, as unseen assailants vandalize their car and cut the telephone lines.

And then the intruders (Kip Weeks and Laura Margolis) actually enter the house and begin stalking the couple.

If Bertino had the courage to stick with a more subtle approach, he might have had something — even if it was derivative. But instead, the supposedly shocking and rather poor-taste ending is almost laughable.

Of course, it doesn't help that he cast Tyler and Speedman, two performers who often come off as sleepy when they're not inspired by the material. Here they're practically catatonic and are unconvincing.

"The Strangers" is rated R for strong scenes of violent action and terror (a shooting, stabbings, vehicular mayhem, and violence against women), some graphic gore and blood, scattered, strong sexual profanity, some brief sexual contact and derogatory slurs. Running time: 85 minutes.

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