The Popcorn Periodical
“Prey At Night” delays the fright in “The Strangers” sequel
We’re in the second week of March and the movies of 2018 are already making history and smashing box office records: Red Sparrow has swooped it’s way into the good graces of critics, Black Panther remains the biggest blockbuster movie ever, and this weekend’s A Wrinkle In Time is opening to what’s predicted to be another big box office weekend – thanks to a beloved children’s novel, an all-star diverse cast, an Oscar-nominated director, and the one and only Walt Disney Pictures, of course.
From spy thrillers to fantasyland expeditions, big-budget blockbusters tend to land within the action/adventure/fantasy genres. When it comes to the horror genre, it’s the ever-expanding supernatural universes like 2017’s Annabelle: Creation or this year’s Insidious: The Last Key marking the box office beast. The popular slasher flicks of yesterday are only seldom released nowadays, regardless of horror fans flooding to the theatres every time Ghostface stalks another Scream sequel, or Jason terrorizes another Friday the 13th.
Scary movies about masked serial killers are not completely extinct, though – 2017’s genre-spoofing Happy Death Day was a thrill ride, resurging the genre into a new era, and this October’s Halloween sequel (directed by the original John Carpenter and starring the scream queen herself, Jamie Lee Curtis) promises a screaming good time! The heydays of slasher flicks are becoming less realized in Hollywood, so when the opportunity to execute a sequel to one of the most popular horror films of the 2000’s arrises, it’s either sink or swim.
In May of 2008, Director Bryan Bertino released a sophisticatedly crafted spectacle of macabre; The Strangers. The relentless horror film stars Liv Tyler (Armageddon) and Scott Speedman (TV’s Felicity) as a young newlywed couple who get terrorized by three unknown assailants while staying in an isolated vacation home, that’s based on a true story. The film was romantic, savagely terrifying, heart-racing, and tragic, to put it lightly. Emotions run high while watching this movie, no doubt, and Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman aced their performances. The killers were mystifyingly horrific, stalking Tyler and Speedman like prey and relishing in their terror. If there was a “Hall of Fame” for movie murderers (which let’s face it there is), Dollface, Pin-up Girl, and Man in the Mask would get (at the very least) an honourable mention. They’re straight-up terrifying.
The Strangers was a manic ride and the ending is one of the genre’s most talked about – did Liv Tyler die?! It became an overnight cult classic and once Bryan Bertino announced he’d be writing the screenplay for a sequel, fans have seen ten years go by. Dollface, Pin-up Girl, and Man in the Mask costumes are still running around trick-or-treating or posing for photos at costume parties to this day, but now that it’s been a decade since The Strangers rocked moviegoers to their core, the genre has made a shift, and it’s the hauntings and exorcisms of the supernatural franchises that rule the horror movie breed. It’s a shame, but a fresh new idea like 2017’s Get Out was only produced because of the mind behind the madness – Best Original Screenplay Oscar winner, Jordan Peele was able to create an originally frightening and well-thought-out story, something The Strangers 2: Prey At Night fails to do.
Frankly, f you’re looking for something comparable to the stomach-turning suspense of 2008’s The Strangers, you’re going to be disappointed. The Strangers 2: Prey At Night does exactly what you’d expect it to – rip off the original in an attempt to profit from its hype. And ten years is a long time for any sort of hype to last. It’s unfortunate, to say the least, because its predecessor is held-up as a genuinely scary horror film.
Prey At Night starts out as most slasher flicks do, following a group of protagonists who have no idea they are about to be the victims of a psychotic reign of terror. Christina Hendricks (TV’s Madmen) and Martin Henderson (The Ring) play Cindy and Mike, a couple who is moving their family to take their troubled daughter, Kinsey (Bailee Madison, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark), to boarding school. Her older brother Luke (Lewis Pullman, Battle of the Sexes), is strung along by default. En route, they plan to stay the night at a family member’s mobile home park, but since it’s after Labour Day, the park is empty, and a string of creepy events lead to a twisted besiegement that tests the family’s every limit.
Director Johannes Roberts (47 Meters Down) has directed a slew of B-movie horrors, and he can now add Prey At Night to the list. What should have been a classic nod to the original is instead a recycled, reduced, and reused recipe of every cheesy horror movie you’ve ever seen. The characters are oblivious, stereotyped, and exaggerated, while the three masked murderers are only a shell of what we know them to be. Sure, the axe-dragging and jump-scares will make you squirm in a darkened theatre, but almost every explosive scene is pimped out in the trailer making this short 1h 22m kill-fest feel like you’ve already seen it. Little is left to the imagination.
While the acting was mediocre and the thrills seemed recycled, the Prey At Night setting is palpable for a horror movie. The murders in the mobile home park are also based on a true story, which is the only truly scary aspect of this film (if that’s even true). A wild pool scene towards the end is a stand-out, but not enough to keep the entire film afloat, so should you decide to take the plunge, know that The Strangers 2: Prey At Night was obviously made to make money. Even with the original director writing the script. Will it make enough to propel the third instalment? Perhaps, but this sequel is lost on the audience with one too many “yeah rights” and not nearly enough “holy shits!” If there’s one thing this movie is good for, it’s to remind us to never open the door for strangers!
“Is Tamra home?”
2.5 Popcorn Kernels / 5
About the Author
Joey Viola is the Co-Founder of MoJo Toronto and an LGBTQ community leader who utilizes his passion and flair for the art of writing by bringing a fresh perspective in reviewing entertainment and advocating for equality, tolerance, and social/political justice.