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article imageReview: ‘The Strangers: Prey at Night’ is a massacre instead of thriller Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Mar 10, 2018 in Entertainment
‘The Strangers: Prey at Night’ is a sequel to the 10-year-old home invasion picture, though it presents a very different tone and is less unsettling than its predecessor.
In the movie industry, “leaving well enough alone” isn’t a phrase that carries much weight. Even when it seems like they’ve struck lightening by achieving an acceptable level of acclaim or success, it’s just a reason to recycle and repeat. Usually this happens in the form of a remake or an immediate sequel, capitalizing on whatever formula worked the first time around. However, occasionally (though more frequently as of late), someone decides to continue a story years after the original. The narrative time that’s past is often comparable to the gap between films and in most cases the original characters return for another go. The latest follow-up to an older movie is The Strangers: Prey at Night.
A family is going on an unpleasant road trip to drop their delinquent daughter, Kinsey (Bailee Madison), at boarding school. Dad (Martin Henderson) is trying to keep the peace, while mom (Christina Hendricks) insists this is their only option and brother Luke (Lewis Pullman) resents being dragged along for the ride. But before they part ways, they’re spending the night at their Uncle Marvin’s off-season trailer park… and they’re not the only ones. A mysterious girl knocks at their door in the middle of the night looking for her friend. Then a man in a mask is seen standing outside their window. And that’s just the beginning of what will be the worst night of their lives… if they survive.
The first film was all about atmosphere. The Strangers stalked the couple for hours, frightening them into a state of hysteria and forcing them to take risks out of desperation. Without being gory, it harkened back to the horror films of the ‘70s that were nearer to psychological thrillers than the torture porn that was pervading cinemas. It was intense, disturbing and audiences really responded to the film. Cut to 10 years later and they can’t seem to replicate that formula.
The movie starts in a way that will be very familiar to fans of the original. The still active trio of killers (though they are played by different actors: Emma Bellomy, Lea Enslin and Damian Maffei) wear the same masks, drive the same truck and use the same tactics to do recon on their latest victims. However, it seems a decade of murder has enhanced their lust for blood so the deaths are less drawn out and more malicious. Of course with a family of four their fun continues if they kill one or two early on, but it gives the movie a different tone.
The picture relies on a lot of horror movie clichés to propel its narrative, as well as a couple of difficult to believe coincidences. But most egregiously, what filmmakers likely thought was an homage to one of the greatest ‘70s horror movies plays more like a rip-off that tanks a movie already on the brink of losing genre fans.
Director: Johannes Roberts
Starring: Christina Hendricks, Bailee Madison and Martin Henderson
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