The Strangers: Prey at Night, 2018.
Directed by Johannes Roberts.
Starring Christina Hendricks, Bailee Madison, Martin Henderson, Lewis Pullman, Emma Bellomy, Damian Maffel, and Lea Enslin.
A family staying in a secluded mobile home park for the night are visited by three masked psychopaths, to test their every limit.
Dollface, Pin-up Girl, and the man wearing a burlap sack for a mask (Sackman?) have returned (unnoticeably played by different actors this time around, changing nothing) for the sequel to Bryan Bertino’s 2008 horror success The Strangers (serving as only a writer this time as 47 Meters Down director Johannes Roberts takes over steering the ship) bringing to the silver screen another story based on true events (a term to be used loosely in this instance if there ever was one) of randomized senseless home invasion murdering that ditches realism for incredibly far-fetched nonsense increasingly growing more over-the-top every passing minute; by the ending it feels as if Burlap Sackman’s depiction could be sued as plagiarism of the video game Resident Evil 4 over how much damage he soaks up without dying (all he is missing is the trademark chainsaw).
The setup for this second helping of domestic terrorizing largely stays similar to the first film, but in typical predictable Hollywood fashion now has to up the stakes. Instead of a married couple being hunted it is now a family of four made up of parents (Christina Hendricks and Martin Henderson) and a sister/brother combo (Bailee Madison and Lewis Pullman) on the verge of high school graduation, with the killing grounds taking place over an entire isolated mobile home park rather than a fancy summer home. An argument also breaks out before the violence to juxtapose it with how much those involved actually do love one another, although this was better executed in the first film by having a couple where the man just had his marriage proposal rejected. Honestly, it is surprising that the filmmakers did not introduce more sociopathic killers sporting creepy facial wear considering that the thought process behind The Strangers: Prey at Night seems to have been to focus on giving the audience relentless suspense, sacrificing all sensible character logic (everyone here is cliché slasher movie degrees of dumb) and organic narrative progression.
Good luck finding a single moviegoer able to suspend their disbelief at the sight of four smashed cell phones sitting next to one another on the dining room table all as a result of none of the family members keeping them on hand as they explore outside AFTER becoming aware of a grisly death. Keep in mind, one of the clan is a rebellious and troubled punk rock girl played by who is shown to be sucked into the digital world like most children her age. From there, developments only float upwards in their levels of absurdity, climaxing with a sequence so out of control and comically overdone that it feels as if the filmmakers had no idea how they actually wanted the movie to end. For a movie that is only a tightly brisk 81 minutes, there comes a point where no one would fault the viewer for assuming it might go on forever.
Along the way (and even during the ridiculous grand finale), thankfully, are a handful of scenes that feel inspired and stand out. A battle around and inside a public swimming full is both intense and competently photographed, but the lasting impression here will be the iconic ballad Total Eclipse of the Heart blasting over the dangerous struggle in real time. As a matter of fact, The Strangers: Prey at Night boasts a soundtrack filled with noteworthy 80s mainstream pop tracks blaring over car radios and the like, adding a distinct style to the proceedings and also a type of music that blends well with the electronic and percussionist elements of the film’s original compositions.
Also surprising is that just because a character is played by a well-known actor (or in this case the most popular performer in the film) does not mean they are granted immunity until the final showdown. The only downside is that it is fairly easy to draw an accurate conclusion as to the order the family members will meet their demise following their first loss, but as previously mentioned, the last stand so to speak is batshit insane throwing the laws of physics and the human body out the window entirely. I actually sort of admire it for its headstrong commitment to simply not stop.
Still, The Strangers: Prey at Night is a tough one to recommend to anyone but strong fans of the first film or genre aficionados. For better or worse, they will watch the same movie they enjoyed 10 years ago, albeit far sillier this time around. Furthermore, points absolutely have to be rewarded to the film for not going down the route of constant brain-dead jump scares, and even in the rare instances they are used they work and feel creative. Nothing like having a conversation interrupted by a truck plowing through a trailer home! Anyway, if you can forgive the stupidity of the characters and all of the plot contrivances, getting on the same retro 80s slasher wavelength then you will be entertained. At the very least, no one will ever listen to Total Eclipse of the Heart the same way again.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com