Review: The Strangers: Prey at Night

Written by Aaron Radcliff:

You thought this was going to be A Wrinkle in Time, didn’t you? With no less than four different films coming out this weekend, I decided to let the fans decide what I would review this week. After getting the results from our Facebook and Twitter pages, this is what was decided on and boy do I wish they had picked a different film.

The Strangers: Prey at Night is the sequel to 2008’s The Strangers, a home invasion horror film that was surprisingly good. This time out, we follow a typical suburban family as they try to survive an encounter with the first film’s three masked killers: Pin-up Girl, Dollface, and The Man in the Mask. While this is a sequel, it’s not a direct one. The only connections between either of the films are the killers and nothing else. It’s nice to see a sequel that’s able to be its own story without having to rely too much on prior events.

There are several send-ups to classic horror films sprinkled throughout. From Friday the 13th to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the occasional wink-and-nod moments are well-received and blend well with the 80’s aesthetic invoked, be it with song choices, visuals, or filming techniques. It feels like an attempt to evoke the spirit of classic horror in the modern setting. Well-intended as it may be, all it really does is make me think back to those old films and wish I was watching them instead.

As I implied earlier, this was not good, and that stings for me as a fan of horror. There was no attempt at anything new or interesting, just a copy-paste of the structure from the first film. Same premise, same action, same reasoning. In the first, when it was revealed that they were terrorizing the couple simply because “You were home,” it was damn terrifying. The idea that sometimes violence just happens for no rhyme or reason and you just happened to be at the wrong place and time hadn’t been hugely explored as an overall premise. But now it feels played out and unoriginal. Why are these killers the way they are? What is it about terrorizing people and killing them that they enjoy so much? Maybe I’m asking too much from a slasher flick, but I feel like a little exploration would be nice.

The biggest sin, however, is that it’s just boring and not scary. Even for a brisk sub-90 minute run time, I felt bored. There are plenty of horror films that weren’t scary but at least tried to be fun and interesting. Here, we just have a movie wearing the skin of the first with slightly prettier makeup and finds peek-a-boo to be the scariest possible thing you can do. Most good horror films nowadays rely on suspense and psychological terror to achieve the scares and should (for the most part) save the jump scares for when it’s deserved. When the only scares you have to offer are popping out of the dark, it isn’t scary. Just annoying.

At least, being only 85 minutes, we get pretty much right to the point and don’t look back.

Maybe I’m being too harsh and letting my enjoyment of the first film taint my view of this. Or maybe I truly didn’t enjoy it. If you want to rehash the first film, fine, but expand upon it and give us a different focus or aspect that we hadn’t explored. If you want to be an homage to the horror films of the 80’s and 70’s, then go whole hog. You’re halfway there with the look and characters, so just go the rest of the way and make it a giant glob of stabby, murderous cheese. Playing the balancing act between the two is difficult and is easily fumbled just like it was here.

Score: 4 out of 10


Image via Aviron Pictures Rogue


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