Almost 10 years after the original film, The Strangers: Prey at Night looks to strike while the iron is hot as horror movies the past 2 years have seen big success on shoe string budgets. 2008’s The Strangers saw a similar release from Rogue pictures. On a $9 million dollar budget, the film earned $82.4 million worldwide. While not a financial success, The Stranger’s became a fan favorite in the genre and is even considered a classic by some film pundits. But can Prey at Night succeed in a healthy horror film climate were the original didn’t?
We follow a family (Christina Hendricks, Martin Henderson, Lewis Pullman and Bailee Madison) that takes a trip to a seasonal trailer park owned by a relative, but find themselves terrorized by the three masked strangers from the first film. Yes, that is it! There are no ties to the original other than the bad guys and the rusty old pick-up truck they drove off into the sunset in.
There is little to no character development here. We get very little on why the family is taking a trip in the first place. It’s not leisure or for a vacation, but has to do with the very cliché angsty teenage Kinsey (Madison) being shipped off to the relative who owns the park. We don’t know what she did to be sent away to become someone else’s problem. There is growth with Kinsey through the whole ordeal as she rises to the occasion at the right time, but you aren’t particularly cheering for that.
We don’t learn much at all about Mom or Dad or even their other child Luke (Pullman). The four leads make pretty dumb mistakes throughout. By the end, you don’t care that certain characters meet their fate. The bad guys themselves (Doll Face, Man in the Mask and Pin-up Girl) are still a mystery and that is fine for this type of movie. We don’t need answers why they are evil. We don’t need a Strangers origin after this. What made slasher films work long ago is that you never know why killers are killing, they just do it because they can.
A big point of disappointment would be the scares. You can literally see them coming before they happen. Another horror cliche is seeing the bad guy in frame before they attack their pray. I counted about 2 scares that worked and the rest kind of fall flat.
A big plus for the movie is the way certain scenes are shot. There is one beautiful sequence near the community pool lit up by neon palm trees and pool water that looks way too clean for even for a trailer park that make the movie worth a look.
The score by Adrian Johnston works so well through the movie. It’s very synthesizer heavy in the right spots. A throw back to 80’s slasher scores like Halloween or Friday the 13th. There is also a mix of 80’s pop music through the mayhem being played through the Stranger’s truck radio or through the PA system in the park. Much like the first film, there isn’t too much blood and gore to make you queasy.
I have a hard time believe anyone that was a fan of the first film will be satisfied with The Strangers: Prey at Night. Any hope that a franchise could come out of this is dead on arrival. I felt maybe too much time had passed and the genre had evolved. I would have liked to have seen a continuation of the original story instead.