The Strangers: Prey At Night
Director: Johannes Roberts
Writers: Bryan Bertino, Ben Ketai
Runtime: 85 Mins
Warning: This review contains some spoilers. Mainly because fuck this movie.
It is in every way inferior to it’s predecessor.
The original 2008 film ‘The Strangers’ is a genuinely unnerving and violent film. While most of us have seen a slasher movie or two, ‘The Strangers’ made you feel it. The noticeable lack of music made the film organically intense, especially coupled with the creepy masks and the performances by the killers in a relatable setting. Even the weird angles and the way it was shot - it made your skin crawl. No way in hell would you answer the door when somebody knocked for at least a week or go to bed with the lights off. In addition to all that, it took a different narrative approach starting Tarantino style, the film opens at the end after all the killing is over. It is rare in a horror movie. The original had some elegance that made it rise above the pantheon of typical slasher films.
‘Strangers: Prey At Night They Don’t Make Another One’ is none of of those things. Gone are the creepy angles and interesting story telling techniques. Instead of anything of that kind, bring in all the typical things you see in every horror movie. To it’s credit, ‘Strangers: Prey The Place Gets Nuked and Everyone Dies At Night’ does a good job of building an atmosphere. With a relatively strong opening, the tension the first film had when no soundtrack was used, is repeated here and may be the only positive thing about the film.
In this sequel, we are introduced to the most unlikeable family you have ever seen committed to film that has absolutely no family chemistry. Oh the mom and dad have chemistry: as the mom is played by Christina Hendricks (Mad Men) and any guy would be able to have chemistry with her if he could stop drooling long enough. The husband/dad (Martin Henderson) is written as a total dolt, at one point uttering: “what’s a queef?” Dude, you have two kids and were thirteen at one point. You know what a queef is because you are one. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree as the kids: Emo Girl 1(Bailee Madison) and Sports Brah 1 (Lewis Pullman), are too engulfed in their cell phones and cigarettes to really have much personality besides flipping each other off. These two teenage dirtbag archetypes rolled their eyes more than I did while watching them. Although it is difficult to defend their lack of chemistry, I would say that they seem to get real close as a family real quick once the kill stab stab starts happening. That in and of itself was more interesting than the actual film: ‘The Strangers: Prey At Night They Do A Movie About That Next.’
I get it. It’s a genre piece. Director Johannes Roberts was going for the old school 80’s slasher flick that you know, people walked out of. There is something to be said for a movie where you initially hate every character, then through their stupidity you actually kind of want them to die. But then as they start to get victimized you feel bad for these poorly developed meatbags, as you start to cheer for them when they fight back against their attackers. It is some warped psychology to cheer and hoot and holler like a drunk at a football game when the killers get shotgun blasts to the face. Unlike the first ‘The Strangers,’ where you get to see what all the killers look like, that doesn’t happen here. I was hoping, that maybe, one of the killers would take her mask off and be Liv Tyler from the first film. That would provide an interesting twist to a severely lacking film, almost in the same way Jigsaw’s victims later became his Stockholm Syndrome accomplices later in the ‘Saw’ series. I was also hoping that the dad character wouldn’t be such a tool and instead maybe be like an off duty cop. He could then turn the tables on the killers. Or when the killers gets asked why they are killing everyone, they simply answer: “You don’t believe in the Purge?” In this world of cinema multiverses, this seems like a missed opportunity.
The original ‘The Strangers’ seemed to be rooted somewhat in real-life. Based off the Manson murders that seemed random and pointlessly brutal to the victims, it didn’t really need a reason to exist outside of that. But in the sequel the killers are inhumanly unstoppable. They not only have incredible eyesight to drive around in the country fog and find people that are hiding, they also have the power be omnipresently everywhere. “Oh okay, I think we’re safe in this tiny closet.” Nope. They beat you there. I know there’s three of them but still, how are they in every trailer everytime? Then when they are not, they are standing in a place where they visually have eyes on the target. This trailer park is huge! This cheapens the creepiness of the first one making it more like ‘Nightmare On Elm Street’ or ‘Friday The 13th’ where Jason is everywhere including right behind you! Except now there are three of them. I wondered why anyone tried escaping, they’d beat you to wherever you were trying to escape to. In addition, they were virtually unkillable. I think at one point the guy with the bag over his head almost drowns, then gets into a pretty gnarly car accident, then survives when his truck explodes with him inside, pulls a severe stab wound out of his stomach while on fire, then still has the stamina to quickly run after this girl and swing like a forty pound axe simultaneously? These powers of incredible stamina are not just limited to the killers. The victims have superpowers too. At one point the main protagonist gets severely stabbed, sprains their ankle, then has to take a breather in a hiding place for a portion of the film. They miraculously return, plus, all of the sudden they don’t have the limp anymore. What happened while they were off camera? Did they get a second wind? Did they take a nap? Or is this like ‘Halo’ and if you duck down for a moment behind cover your health regenerates?
I know this violence porn/film is going for a more retro thing, but I thought we were beyond this. It wasn’t even a fun horror movie like ‘Happy Death Day’ that Blumhouse pictures is so excellent at making. If you want retro, a horror film like the fantastic ‘It Follows’ might be a good model.
‘The Strangers: Prey At Night The Original Comes To Netflix.’