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The Strangers: Prey at Night (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 8, 2020

The Strangers: Prey at Night


Starring Christina Hendricks, Martin Henderson, Bailee Madison, Lewis Pullman, Emma Bellomy, Damian Maffei, Lea Enslin, Preston Sadleir, Gabriel A. Byrne and Sunny Dixit.

Screenplay by Bryan Bertino and Ben Ketai.

Directed by Johannes Roberts.

Distributed by Aviron Pictures. 85 minutes. Rated R.

Just the fact that The Strangers: Prey at Night was made at all is really kind of shocking. After all, it’s a sequel to a ten-year-old horror film about a couple being terrorized in a home invasion by three killers in Halloween masks. The Strangers was neither or a hit nor particularly acclaimed, and now a decade later it is pretty much forgotten. (Pop quiz: Who starred in the original 2008 film? Stumped, huh? It was Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman.)

So, has anyone really been waiting for the continuing adventures of the goofy-masked psychopaths from that film?

Apparently, someone has, if just the writer/director, Bryan Bertino. This time out, he handed over the directing reigns to Johannes Roberts and also split the writing duty with Ben Katai.

You know what? The three of them together bucked the odds and made a better film than the original, which wasn’t half bad itself. Good for them. They took a project that no one thought was needed and made something that maybe we really did need after all.

Now, ten years later, a very dysfunctional family are terrorized in an empty off-season trailer park by the same psychopaths in the same masks. (Are they even the same killers? The masks are the same, but all the actors playing the psychos are different than the ones from the first film.)

Like the original, the killers are totally inscrutable, nameless, faceless, emotionless, pure evil. Also, they seem to have no real reason or motivation for their acts.

“Why are you doing this?” one of the family members desperately asks one of the killers.

“Why not?” she replies, noncommittally.

This sense of existential dread is another mirror image of the original, where the even creepier answer to a similar question was an off-hand “Because you were home.”

The unfortunate family who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time are Mike and Cindy (Martin Henderson and Christina Hendricks) and their teen children Kinsey (child star Bailee Madison grown up a bit) and Luke (Lewis Pullman). Kinsey has been getting into trouble and has finally pushed mom too far and is being sent off to boarding school. The guys are trying to keep the peace between the squabbling mother and daughter.

On the way to the school they stay over at Cindy’s aunt and uncle’s vacation resort, which is closed for the season. The audience saw the aunt and uncle being attacked by the crazed killers in the opening sequence of the film, but the family has no idea anything is wrong, until a shadowy girl shows up at their door twice, asking “Is Tamara home?” both times even though they told her there was no one by that name there. Soon the strangers start to pop up everywhere and the bodies start to pile up.

The killers for some reason like to murder people while listening to dramatic early-80s synth-pop songs, including surprisingly, two songs by one of my old favorites, British new wave singer Kim Wilde. (“Kids in America” was great, though pretty predictable, but “Cambodia” was a nice, fairly obscure choice.) There were also two overwrought Jim Steinman-produced ballad smashes: Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and Air Supply’s “Making Love Out of Nothing at All.”

The greatly limited cast gives the film a claustrophobic feel. There are the four family members, the three killers and as far as I can remember an additional seven supporting characters who have one short scene each – in fact at least three of those you only see long enough for them to be killed. (Well, you see some more kids playing a pickup baseball game, but only two have any lines, so I only counted those two.)

I’m still not sure the world really, really needed a sequel to The Strangers. But now that it is here, it’s not a bad thing.

Dave Strohler

Copyright ©2018 All rights reserved. Posted: June 12, 2018.

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