When Strangers Appear (2001)

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Sell-Through Release Status Unknown
Available for Rent

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Main Menu Audio & Animation
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 96:16
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Scott Reynolds
Beyond Films Int
Imagine Entertainment
Starring Radha Mitchell
Barry Watson
Josh Lucas
Kevin Anderson
Steven Ray
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI Rental Music Roger Mason

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, watch until the end of the credits!

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    When Strangers Appear was filmed in New Zealand, but all of the actors have American accents, American cars and American money - it is ostensibly set in Oregon. The story is a little confusing at times, with numerous plot twists and turns. I will try to give a brief plot synopsis without giving too much away, which could spoil the film for first-time viewers.

    Radha Mitchell plays a hard-working country girl. Following the death of her father, Beth has inherited two businesses, neither of which is exactly a gold mine. By day she runs her roadside diner, and at night she runs the Skyliner Motel. Since the construction of the local freeway, life has been pretty hard, with nary a customer on some days. On this particular day however, Beth is surprised to have a man arrive at the diner shortly before opening time. Once admitted, it is apparent that not all is well with the dishevelled young chap. He only has eighty cents to his name and is desperate to make use of the rest room. While Beth is preparing a charitable breakfast for him, Jack Barrett (Barry Watson, cast against type given his most famous role in the television series 7th Heaven) is busily re-dressing the deep knife wound in his abdomen.

    Before too long another car rolls up, containing three surfers on their way to Moses Beach. A terrified Jack hides in the kitchen and pleads with Beth not to let the men know that he is there. Jack insists that they are the men who stabbed him, and are chasing him after a road-rage incident. Beth is unsure who to believe, but ultimately decides to help Jack out by taking him to a local doctor (and close friend) for treatment. When Doctor Eric (Steven Ray) disappears leaving a note about a family death, and copious amounts of blood sprayed across his surgery wall, Beth tries to enlist the local policeman to help locate him. This is no easy thing for Beth to do however, having publicly accused Officer Bryce (Kevin Anderson) of raping her some months before. At the same time, she has to cope with an ongoing hate campaign of telephone calls and letters which brand her a "B****" and "Slut".

    The plot thickens as it appears that the young surfers now staying at Beth's motel may be the good guys, and Jack may in fact be on the wrong side of the law. On the other hand, Jack seems so believable, and Peter (Josh Lucas from The Hulk), the leader of the surfer trio, whilst outwardly charming does appear to have a sinister side... Beth is left to work out for herself who she can trust - the bleeding Jack, the suave but edgy Peter or the accused rapist Officer Bryce.

     Overall this is an enjoyable movie, with some good solid acting from Mitchell, Watson and Lucas. Some of the cinematography is quite stylish and the ever-changing plot will certainly keep you guessing. There are some good tension building scenes and one or two nice action set-pieces to enjoy. The screenplay is not quite as tightly written as the actors deserve, and a couple of plot-holes and the lack of a neatly defined ending may leave you feeling less than fully satisfied. When Strangers Appear is certainly worth a rental.

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Transfer Quality


    The overall video transfer of this disc is good, with no major defects.

    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. It has been altered from the original aspect ratio of 2.39:1.

    The transfer is pretty well free from grain and is consistently bright and clear - perhaps slightly too bright on occasion, but I am sure this was the choice of the director rather than a problem with the transfer. Shadow detail is good and blacks are solid and quite deep with no significant low-level noise witnessed.

    Colours are clean, clear and well rendered with no colour bleeding, and skin tones which are realistic.

    The transfer has no significant MPEG artefacts. Edge enhancement was not noticed and aliasing was never an issue. Surprisingly, given the age of the film, a few minor film artefacts crop up occasionally, but overall this is an extremely clean transfer.

    There are no subtitle tracks present.

    This is a single sided, single layered (DVD 5) disc.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The overall audio quality of this disc is good with only the briefest of audio dropouts at 4:38.

    There is a single English audio track available which is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 encoded at 448 kbps.

    Dialogue was always clear and audio synch was not a problem.

    The original music is credited to Roger Mason (who was once a member of Gary Numan's backing group), and is suitably creepy with willowy strings and an unsettling undercurrent of bass. It does a good job of maintaining suspense during the movie. There are also a few pop songs used in the film from the likes of Blondie and Deep Purple.

    Whilst initially sounding quite flat, by the second reel the soundstage comes to life a little more, making reasonable use of the front speakers with some panning and good separation. The surrounds are used fairly subtly to carry some ambient sound effects (such as waves at the beach) and the tension-building musical score.

    The subwoofer was asleep at the start of the movie, but ultimately gets some use for the musical tracks and shows a few more signs of life during some of the action scenes, but is certainly not going to worry the neighbours too much.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There are no significant extras on this disc.


    The menu is a static photo of the three main cast members and a musical backing track. It allows the selection of playing the movie, selecting of one of twelve chapter stops or viewing the trailer.


    Running for 1:29 and presented at 1.33:1 (not 16x9 enhanced), with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack encoded at 224kbps.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 version of this movie is presented with both an anamorphically enhanced transfer close to the original theatrical aspect ratio, at 2.35:1, and a full-frame 1.33:1 version. It is also a fairly bare-bones effort, but does posses the following additional extras, as well as a range of subtitle tracks:

    Due to the (near) original theatrical aspect ratio presentation, I would say that the Region 1 version is the preferred version.


    When Strangers Appear is quite a stylish movie, unfortunately with a somewhat untidy plot. Suspenseful and intriguing it will keep your attention for the duration. The ending is a little unsatisfactory but it is still worth an evening's rental. Oh - remember to watch right through the closing credits!

    The video quality is good, with the occasional stylish shot to be seen.

    The audio quality is technically quite good, but not overly inspiring.

    The extras are essentially non-existent.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Daniel O'Donoghue (You think my bio is funny? Funny how?)
Wednesday, June 18, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-344 Multi-Region, using Component output
DisplayPanasonic TX-47P500H 47" Widescreen RPTV. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationONKYO TX-DS484
SpeakersJensenSPX-9 fronts, Jensen SPX-13 Centre, Jensen SPX-5 surrounds, Jensen SPX-17 subwoofer

Other Reviews NONE
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