The Strangers: Prey at Night Movie Review
Written by Ryan Holloway
Released by Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Directed by Johannes Roberts
Written by Bryan Bertino (Original Screenplay) and Ben Ketai (Screenplay)
2018, 85 minutes, Rated R
Released on June 12th, 2018
Christina Hendricks as Cindy
Martin Henderson as Mike
Bailee Madison as Kinsey
Lewis Pullman as Luke
Damian Maffei as Man in the Mask
Emma Bellomy as Dollface
Lea Enslin as Pinup
When Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman were terrorised by masked assailants in the 2008 hit The Strangers, there was an air of inevitability about a sequel, but the fact that it took ten years is perhaps a clue to what to expect in Johannes Roberts’ follow up.
This time around, a couple with relationship problems is replaced by a family…with relationship problems as they take a road trip that will end with daughter Kinsey (Bailee Madison) being dropped off at a boarding school for what we are told is a year of terrible behavior.
When they arrive at a secluded trailer park to stay with relatives, they soon get a visit by three masked psychopaths who want nothing more than to terrorise and eventually kill them; will they succeed or will the family work together to get away?
The Strangers, although not original, is pretty scary and manages to create an atmosphere that makes it tough to watch at times. It also has a premise that doesn't require too much explanation, keeps it simple and focuses on the fear.
Right from the start of The Strangers: Prey at Night, it creates questions that it doesn’t seem bothered to try and answer. One might expect a secluded cabin to be, well, secluded, but an entire trailer park? When the family arrives it is silent, like a nuclear bomb testing site silent, not a soul around. Has everyone been killed? Is it off-season? Have they run out of clean towels? It’s not really explained, so it instantly feels jarring. When Dollface arrives at the door as she did in the first movie, sans dollface, we’re in familiar territory, so we now wait to play blood-spatter by numbers.
As the family gets separated and are stalked by members of the masked gang of psychos, we get flashes or brilliance and a window into what could have been had Johannes Roberts been given a stronger script. He clearly knows his way around a horror landscape with jump scares that really work, one in particular that takes place in a concrete pipe (shiver), and gore that doesn’t seem out of place.
The victims are made up of a great bunch of actors who don’t really gel and therefore don’t convince us that they are a family, troubled or otherwise. Christina Hendricks does what she can as mother Cindy, but isn’t really given a lot to get her teeth into. Martin Henderson is perfectly affable as the father and Bailee Madison (Kinsey), best known for being the creepy kid in just about everything, works hard to raise her character above the highest setting of cliché, her delinquent behavior made all the more obvious by smoking (gasp) and wearing a Ramones t-shirt.
The most convincing performance probably comes from Lewis Pullman as Kinsey’s brother Luke, who plays the part with a realism that makes you really root for the kid despite him being a bit wet in the face of such forced adversity.
Not much can be said about the masked ones, they tilt their heads in that eerie mask-wearing kind of way and occasionally cut people. What is scary in the first film actually becomes too tiresome too quickly in this one with nothing of note really ever happening.
What would make a better film would be to see the killers’ planning-meeting, as they seem to know exactly what is at their disposal in every trailer. They are also always conveniently in their car ready to switch on the headlights just when our heroes think they have lost them.
There’s even a scary jack-in-the-box that is conveniently placed in a room that Kinsey runs into and of course she stops to wait for its climax as if she has no idea what it is. Run for heaven’s sake!
All in all, there is just about enough going on to please some fans but it just falls flat very early. It even tacks on a nonsensical sequel bating ending, as without it, (SPOILER) The Strangers: Prey at Night would have finished exactly the same way as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, seriously, right down to an almost pitch perfect rendition of Marilyn Burns’ maniacal crying.
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