If you’re expecting the same kind of chilling horror the first Strangers delivered, you might be disappointed with The Strangers: Prey at Night.
The 2008 flick starring Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman was a surprise hit, a quiet and super creepy psychological thriller that leaves much of its scares to the imagination. There is very little violence throughout the whole film, even though the three terrorizing psychopaths wearing masks all had knives or axes in their hands. They torment the young couple just by standing there, or behind them without them knowing, or pounding on the door or by slowly walking around outside. It’s affecting, and it isn’t until the end that things get stabby – and a slow kind of stabby, too, which I truly hate watching. Shiver.
Unfortunately, none of the original’s psychological horror is translated in The Strangers: Prey at Night, which turns out to be just a straight-up slasher movie. The set-up isn’t even very compelling, either. Christina Hendricks and Martin Henderson play a couple who are taking their sullen teenage daughter (Bailee Madison) to a boarding school in hopes to correct her delinquent ways. Also along for the family “vacation” is the older brother (Lewis Pullman), who doesn’t want to be there.
The family decides to spend the night at a secluded and most deserted trailer park for the night (it’s only open in the summer), and that’s when they encounter the same three masked killers from the original movie. Basically, it’s a case of the wrong place, wrong time.
Hendricks and Henderson portray convincing parents trying their best to give their daughter the help she needs, but otherwise, have very little to do in the film. It’s mostly the two younger actors running around, trying to escape. While the first film took place in one location, a house in the woods, Prey at Night is in an entire trailer park, with lots of places to hide. Seriously, there are a million places they could hide or if they just kept running, they could get to the main highway and get help, but those three killers just seem to know exactly where they are going at all times and are there at every turn. I guess it wouldn’t be a movie if it were that easy to escape.
Pullman (son of Bill Pullman) does a fair job trying to keep it together while surviving the night, but Madison is just annoying from the word go. The once-child actress (Just Go With It; Bridge to Terabithia) is now grown up, smoking and swearing, but when the crap hits the fan, she vacillates between being hysterical and then level-headed and then a basket case again. The performance just grates.
The original 2008 film was written and directed by Bryan Bertino, who said he partially based it on a childhood incident (not murder, thank goodness, but people breaking into neighboring houses). It’s a perfect concept for a terrifying movie mostly because it could happen. Having psychopaths break into your home and kill you, that could happen and has happened many times.
Bertino did not return to helm Prey at Night and so there lies the problem. Directed by Johannes Roberts, the film becomes a standard horror flick, even to the point of one of the three killers, the guy, turning out to be super-human or something. Switch masks and you’ve got Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees. Boring. While we’re meant to be horrified by the randomness of killers’ motives and how casually they stab their victims (“Why are you doing this?,” the victim screams. The doll-face masked girl says, “Why not?”), the film lacks imagination or inventiveness.
The Strangers: Prey at Night doesn’t do the original film any justice, but if you’re okay with a slasher flick, then this should suffice.