Cast: Christina Hendricks, Martin Henderson, Bailee Madison, Lewis Pullman
Director: Johannes Roberts
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: A family’s road trip takes a dangerous turn when they arrive at a secluded mobile home park to stay with some relatives and find it mysteriously deserted. Under the cover of darkness, three masked psychopaths pay them a visit to test the family’s every limit as they struggle to survive. Johannes Roberts directs this horror film inspired by the 2008 smash hit THE STRANGERS.
I do not know how many people were desperately waiting the 10 years it took to release a sequel to The Strangers, but I cannot imagine many of them would be pleased by this movie. I did not necessarily believe this movie needed a sequel, and based on the lack of originality, I do not believe the studios thought so either. While certain moments are frightening and there is a good dose of 80’s nostalgia, the lack of character development and too many convenient moments weaken the film severely.
The film follows two parents; Cindy (Hendricks) and Mike (Henderson), their son Luke (Pullman), and their daughter Kinsey (Madison) who they are dropping off at boarding school due to her behavioral problems. Over the course of a night, they are hunted by three killers who will stop at nothing to make sure they do not survive the night. Starting with the positives, the film does a fantastic job of paying homage to the great horror movies of the 70’s and 80’s. One of the best ways it does this is through the inclusion of pop music from these decades. The opening scene is really set because of the use of, “Kids in America,” by Kim Wilde. I usually associate that song with people having fun on a warm day, but when the screen cuts from the black opening to set our environment, it is the dead of night and looks cold outside. It is a shocking start to the film, but it was pleasant surprise. The other main use of nostalgia was during a fight between Luke and one of the killers. They are fighting on a mini golf course and pool area and the entire time, “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” by Bonnie Tyler is playing, and much of the fight is almost choreographed perfectly to the song. This was the best scene in the movie from an action and suspense standpoint, but the music made it that much more enjoyable. Outside of that, I could not help but fall for some of the horror of this film. The thing that scares me the most in horror movies is an element of realism, and the attacks this family went through could very realistically happen to me at some point. Having someone coming after you for no known reason is a terrifying reality and there is nothing you can do to stop it. I was thinking about that concept for a couple of days after seeing this movie, so it accomplished its goal of making me actually scared.
Moving on to the film’s weak points, the family is barely developed, but the killers are not developed at all. There are very few lines of dialogue given to them and when one of them is asked why they are going after the family and her response is, “why not?” Well, to put it as bluntly as I can, there are an infinite number of nonviolent activities you could participate in other than killing people. The concept of killing people because you are bored does not hold up and makes me laugh instead of fear. If these killers were given even an ounce of development, they could have been an upper-level group of killers, but instead we get a group of generic, B-level villains. Outside of their lack of development, the characters have too many moments where they go beyond what would be reasonable of a normal human being. Any opportunity for the family to succeed is magically thwarted by the killers knowing exactly when they will be somewhere or what they will use to escape. I can give the movie a pass if this happens every once in a while for the sake of suspense, but I found myself asking, “this is happening again?’ multiple times throughout the films. I do not know how large of an area these took place in, but the fact that the killers are always coincidentally in the right spot is incredibly distracting and takes me out of the film.
Overall, while The Strangers: Prey at Night, is not the best horror movie of all time, it is scary and fun where I never felt bored. If I waited 10 years for this movie to come out, I would be mildly upset with the end result, but as a casual viewer of these films, it was a slightly below-average experience. The movie hardly has any overlap from the first one, so it is nice to be able to see one film without needing to see the other. Madison was serviceable in her role and is the one of the few actors with any dramatic range. The final scene suggests that there may be a third installment, and I hope that those involved can learn from their mistakes in this one to make a stronger film in the future.
Overall Score: 4.5/10