Bob Foster

THE STRANGERS PREY AT NIGHT is a mixed bag of a sequel [REVIEW]

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The Strangers: Prey At Night

Directed by Johanns Roberts

Screenplay by Ben Kentai

Starring: Christina Hendricks, Bailee Madison, Martin Henderson, Lewis Pullman (bill’s son!)

Production companies Avrion Picures

Distributed by Avrion Picures

Release date March 9, 2018

Running time 85 minutes

Rated R for horror violence and terror, language throughout

The Strangers (2008) and its 10 years later sequel, subtitled Prey At Night, aim at a particular real life horror being in the wrong place at the wrong time; no reading Latin from a book, visiting the cursed house, or a summer visit to a camp known for killing all the councilors. Nothing supernatural, just a set of bored, murderous sociopaths picking you to kill. For the first film, that wrong place is your own home. “Because you were home” one of the terrorizers of Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman tells them to the question “why are you doing this?” The home invasion film was one I enjoyed in the theaters, -I’ve not seen it since then though I’ve often almost revisited.

For the new film, the claustrophobia of the home is exchanged for the vast, quiet open of an empty trailer park.  A troubled family, led by only particularly known actor Christina Hendricks stops at her aunt’s on the way to drop off their teenaged girl at a boarding school. Too bad the three masked killers are waiting to stalk and kill the family.  It about half works.

In a sequel, one expects the film to jump in pretty quickly to what was set up with time the first time. We all know what is coming. When the movie takes it’s time to start the stalking proper, the audience is more begging the film to hurry up rather than building suspense. Director Johannes Roberts, who wrung mileage on a simple concept in the surprisingly good 47 Meters Down, does try to instill a sense of unease. His camera moves and lingers like a voyeur in external shots. The sense of being watched pervades. The choice not to use any score, allowing the quiet dark, punctuated by solitary lights, forebodes. But we linger on a mostly unlikable family. The same beats and arguments are completed. We’re supposed to be rooting for them but when it’s all squabbles and no heart, it’s hard to.

So the stalk and slash part, how does that do?  Alright. There are moments of great fun and well made sequences. One involving a neon lit pool and Bonnie Tyler’s classic cheese fest “Total Eclipse of the Heart”is the highlight.  The neon is notable in contrast to fantastic use of darkness. The trio are menacing with their calculated movements and mannerisms. But there is a large issue in they always seem to know exactly where everyone is at all times.  A character runs in a random trailer to hide, someone is there. This feels like a cheat to get a scare. There is a moment where a character is backed against a wall. The camera cuts away and the character moved without our knowledge to an open area to get a jump scare.  A killer is simultaneously outside a trailer and in the truck, based upon cuts. There is an incongruity in this trailer park seems both insanely giant – screams and other noises don’t travel – but small enough people keep meeting.

The film shows an appreciate to genre, particular 80s slashers (all songs are 80s ballads to boot), so this isn’t unexpected.

On the whole, I appreciate not repeating the original, instead looking to change it up. After a slower than it should be first half – the film is only 81 minutes until credits, not waiting long – the back half is well designed with some true moments of tension and memorable sequences, delivering on the promise. For us blood lovers, there are some good gore moments and oooh oooouuuch injuries.  Strangers Prey at Night is a mixed bag of a sequel.

 

C+

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