Genre : Horror
Country : United States
Director: Johannes Roberts
A family staying in a secluded mobile home park for the night are visited by three masked psychopaths, to test their every limit.
The 2000’s were a funny time for horror movies. Coming off the hangover of post-Scream teen horror we saw everything from J-horror remakes and found footage to the resurgence of zombies and splatter films. Big trends that would get big and then fizzle out over time. Despite these fads one of the most popular films from that time was something completely different, The Strangers. Unlike other movies from 2008 like Saw V and The Midnight Meat Train, The Strangers didn’t depend on gore and bloodshed. Director Bryan Bertino created a taut thriller that put an emphasis on tension building. Making nearly 10 times its budget a sequel seemed inevitable. And yet it never came. Production was pushed back year after year and it seemed like it would never come out. Then, randomly in December, The Strangers: Prey At Night was not only announced but it was given a March release date. Horror fans were excited but had it been too long?
Based on a script by Bryan Bertino, The Strangers: Prey at Night introduces audiences to your typical family from the suburbs. When their daughter Kinsey (Bailee Madison) continues to get into trouble parents Cindy (Christina Hendricks) and Mike (Martin Henderson) decide to send her to boarding school. Despite in-fighting within the family they pick up their son Luke (Lewis Pullman) and head to the family-owned Gatlin Lake mobile home park. With familial turmoil at an all-time high they are soon confronted by “Pin-Up Girl,” “Dollface,” and the “Man in the Mask.”
Quite frankly, it doesn’t have the most original plot. Whether it’s the supportive if somewhat oblivious father with his all-American wife to the rebellious, cigarette smoking daughter and athletically gifted son the characterizations are paper thin. None of our cast does anything we haven’t seen hundreds of times before. To the point that aside from the opening kill scene the movie can feel a bit tedious with the character arcs being so predictable. When the plot does try to step outside of the box it’s to reference the original which isn’t much better.
Since it’s a sequel, some connections to the first movie are to be expected. Things like how the killers look and their modus operandi are a given. The problem arises when it comes to replicating the actual scares. Things like forms slowly becoming visible behind our leads and those blink-and-you-miss-it appearances aren’t as effective as they once were. Not only was it done better in the original but there have been a decade’s worth of similar frights. So, is that to say that The Strangers: Prey At Night is a complete let down? Not quite.
For all of its faults as a sequel to The Strangers, Prey At Night works quite well as a straight slasher movie. Heavily influenced by John Carpenter it feels more like an 80’s slasher movie than a home invasion thriller. Like the directors of old, Roberts uses a mix of steady cam and dramatic close ups that works well with the movie’s setting.
Using all of the Gatlin Lake trailer park the family is hunted from the dreary mobile homes to a neon-clad community pool. Much like the Friday the 13th video game each space has its own feel, complimented by a synth-heavy soundtrack. All of this combined it creates a fun aesthetic without feel like it’s trying too hard to be retro. It also strays from the original with an upped rate of gore. Consisting mostly of practical effects ice picks and axes are utilized in a way that would make Jason Voorhees proud. Prey At Night also puts more emphasis on jump scares than before. And while some are of the “cat out of nowhere” variety they typically pay off with a deadly appearance from our sharp dressed killers.
For over a decade fans of The Strangers have waited for a sequel and it’s finally here. For fans of Bryan Bertino’s original I’m not quite sure this is the movie you’ve been hoping for. Unlike the first movie the characterizations are fairly weak and the buildup is nowhere near as good as the first time around. With that said if you can get past this there is fun to be had. Reminiscent of past horror classics we get an 80’s inspired slasher that doesn’t fall into self-parody. If you go in with the right expectations you’re in for a fun, blood splattered ride.