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Film Review: 'The Strangers: Prey at Night' is a Lazy Homage to '90s Slasher Films

March 9, 2018Sherry Li

The sequel to 2008's The Strangers, director Johannes Roberts' The Strangers: Prey at Night follows your typical American nuclear family — a mom and dad, Cindy and Mike (Christina Hendricks and Martin Henderson), their son, Luke (Lewis Pullman), and their slightly troublesome daughter, Kinsey (Bailee Madison). While on a road trip, things take a turn for the worse when the foursome pull into a trailer park, expecting to stay with relatives. Instead, they find themselves hunted by three masked murderers.

Generally speaking, Prey at Night is a perfectly acceptable horror film. However, it breaks no new ground in the genre and follows many common horror tropes. The movie is pretty campy, and it's not clear if that is intentional, but it just feels all too familiar, predictable and unoriginal. The writing feels a little lazy at times, and the characters are frustratingly dumb in the face of danger and psychotic killers who murder for no perceivable reason. But although this proves frustrating, the movie does a great job of keeping the audience on their feet and building the tension throughout.

Tonally, the film manages to feel quite dated, almost like a slasher film from the '90s or the early 2000s. And while that's great for those who enjoy that kind of horror, it's less appealing for those who are looking for something more modern. Likewise, the acting from most of the cast is full of cheese, with the exception of Bailee Madison, who does a terrific job. Of course, these are issues common within the genre. And it would be forgivable, were it not for the fact that many recent horror movies have moved away from these tropes and have elevated the genre.

Ultimately, Prey at Night is inoffensive as a horror film. It's not walk-out-of-the-theater terrible, but it's not great either, and neither is it particularly bloody nor scary. It also suffers from one of the most indecisive endings in recent memory, as there are multiple scenes on which the movie could have ended — and which would have all served as great conclusions — yet it feels like the filmmakers simply couldn't figure out how to end the film, so they just included all of them.

The result certainly doesn't hold its own next to a movie like Get Out, so you'll need to adjust your expectations appropriately, especially considering that this is a horror sequel released a decade after the original. If you go in expecting a complex storyline and a developed killer with real motivations, you'll be sorely disappointed. The Strangers: Prey at Night just isn't that kind of film. Rather, this is a movie for those who enjoy horror tropes, camp and jump scares — in which case, your prayers have been answered.

The Strangers: Prey at Night releases March 9th, 2018 from Elevation Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of R for horror violence and terror throughout, and for language. Its runtime is 1 hr. 25 min.

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