Although the original The Strangers received incredibly mixed reviews on its 2008 release, it went down really well with audiences who have been clamouring for a sequel ever since. Now, ten years later, their wishes have been granted. It may have received the same mixed reviews in America, but I think that The Strangers: Prey at Night is a tightly-constructed and relentless little horror film and fans of the genre will not be disappointed.
‘Mike’ (Martin Henderson) and his wife ‘Cindy’ (Christina Hendricks) have hit the road with their son ‘Luke’ (Lewis Pullman) and daughter ‘Kinsey’ (Bailee Madison). Kinsey is off to boarding school and the family want to spend some time together before dropping her off. They head to their aunt and uncle’s secluded trailer park and find it completely abandoned…or, at least, mostly abandoned. A strange girl knocks on their trailer door asking for ‘Tamara’ and there seems to be a number of mysterious figures standing in the park just watching them. Soon, when the strangers come for them, the family find themselves in a desperate fight for survival.
reminiscent of the original film
The Strangers: Prey at Night is reminiscent of the original film, retaining certain effective elements (like the threatening presence of the three masked assailants) and mixing in new improvements (the movie is set in a trailer park that the characters are mostly unfamiliar with – the space makes it more plausible that they could actually potentially survive until morning). It also adds in a new stylistic choice – an 80s influence – that doesn’t really have any narrative basis but brings a nice gloss to the film. This is showcased best in a sequence that everybody, fan or not, agrees is the film’s best – Luke confronts one of the strangers by a swimming pool as ‘Total Eclipse of the Night’ blares out over the speakers (to say any more would be unfair).
The cast doesn’t really have too much to do, but they sell themselves well enough. It is a good decision by the director to spend the first 10-15 minutes (ignoring the effective opener) dealing solely with the family in a setting outside of the trailer park – we get to know all of them just enough for the bloodshed to actually matter. I shan’t say who the first one to die is, but it actually feels like a shocking moment and that is down to the performances – the jeopardy it then introduces for the others means the level of horror is immediately raised.
The Strangers: Prey at Night is not a perfect film, and it could be the case that there is not enough development for you to actually care about the characters. They can strain their likeability a bit when they begin making cliché horror movie decisions including one so stupid that even one of the other characters calls it out in the film. The plot is also fairly weak, if that’s what attracts you to a slasher film, as it fails to capture the ruthless nihilism found in the original film’s ending.
At a lean 85 minutes, the film has no room for slack and it is confident enough to deliver the experience it promises
There’s nothing in The Strangers: Prey at Night that you haven’t seen before in other home invasion movies, but when a film is this confident with the elements and is happy to refuse to give you a single moment’s breathing room when it properly hits its stride, you won’t be disappointed with it. At a lean 85 minutes, the film has no room for slack and it is confident enough to deliver the experience it promises. I’m not saying that it is the best film that you’ll see this year or anything like that, but it is a thrilling horror movie and, if you know what to expect when you go to watch it, you will have a great time watching it! Just one little request, though – please, please stop saying that horror films are based on real events – they never are, and it’s a gimmick that impresses nobody!