The Strangers: Prey at Night
The Strangers: Prey at Night is a stylish sequel that boasts more mystery and slasher kills, but rarely continues the conversation of the first film. It's louder than the first film and provides a bit more closure, but feels like an odd sequel that shouldn't have taken a decade to make.
Director Johannes Roberts follows up Bryan Bertino‘s original low-key home invasion slasher The Strangers with a sequel that’s definitely more stylish, but still drenched in silent mystery and gritty kills. The Strangers: Prey at Night gives us an entirely new setting, with an entire family facing off against the masked killers. Roberts’ direction is a bit more creative, but Bertino’s writing hasn’t exactly gotten better within the last ten years.
The Strangers: Prey at Night follows a family as they attempt to stay at a relative’s off-season trailer park. They arrive in complete silence and darkness, but soon realize that they aren’t the only ones trying to have a slashing good time as they are stalked and pushed to the edge by a group of three mysterious masked psychopaths with no real agenda.
Much like the first film, Prey at Night gets by on the simplistic “because we can” approach, with one of the crazed killers simply telling the poor family that they’re trying to kill them, because why not? That notion definitely made the original film feel like an unsettling and stripped away horror flick back in 2008.
I was never the biggest fan of Bryan Bertino‘s original film, because it piggybacked off of so many better slasher films that at least had the balls to give us a little backstory. People claim that the sheer unknown is what made that film so effective, yet I often thought the writer’s lack of ideas didn’t exactly make the movie anymore scary or tense.
The film did test my surround sound system with carefully-timed knocks and thuds. Those jump scares alone made the film a decent re-watch or introduction film for those easily amused. But The Strangers was far from memorable.
The Strangers: Prey at Night immediately establishes its dominance over the first film within the main credits. It’s drenched with style and 80s vibe that creates atmosphere and uneasy feeling that washes over quick and never really lets up.
This time, the setting is expanded and one small house is turned into an entire trailer park/campground. This allows for director Johannes Roberts to capture some truly remarkable shots, including a misty and vacant playground and a neon outdoor pool that makes for the film’s absolute best scene.
Prey at Night benefits from Roberts’ set design, use of lighting and ability to have multiple things happening at once.
One would think that all of these improvements over the first film would add up to one perfect horror flick, right? Not really.
Prey at Night still suffers from dumb characters making idiotic decisions that had me baffled the entire time. There is not a single likable character on screen, which makes the unsettling and grizzly kills not all that tough to stomach, which I would think is the opposite of the point here.
A bulk of the kills are also done with the absolute laziest execution. A character is pulled down, while the camera zooms in on a face and then suddenly blood spatters all about. Was the budget that low that you couldn’t spare a few dollars on a prop body or torso?
The film goes slightly off-the-rails towards the end and by that point you’re completely on board or completely tuned out. I found myself suddenly laughing at the unfolding of events.
The Strangers tried its best to give you a peeled back horror film that felt real and lived in. It didn’t try to fantasize or polish the act of murder and instead made you feel uneasy. It didn’t always work, in fact it quite bored me the first time I watched it, but I give it credit for at least trying to do something different.
That being said, writer/director Bryan Bertino should have never been hailed as a horror icon and instead a guy that knew how to make a very simple and basic slasher flick.
The Strangers: Prey at Night shows director Johannes Roberts‘ true craftsmanship as a filmmaker. He manages to give the sequel a specific tone and look that makes the film infinitely more entertaining, despite allowing Bertino’s writing to shortchange his visual skills.
Prey at Night lacks a script that feels necessary for a sequel that took a decade to surface. It’s a fun little homage to 80s slashers and a decent enough time for those wanting to support horror, but it’s far from perfect, despite being a superior film to the original.
On paper, it doesn’t really add much to the “mythos” of the characters, but visually it’s an engaging and thrilling game of cat-and-mouse, despite the mice being completely blind and helpless.