27th Apr2018

‘The Strangers: Prey at Night’ Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Christina Hendricks, Martin Henderson, Bailee Madison, Lewis Pullman, Emma Bellomy, Damian Maffei, Lea Enslin | Written by Bryan Bertino, Ben Ketai | Directed by Johannes Roberts

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Loosely inspired by the Manson Family murders (that’s what it means when it says “Based on a true story”), creepy slasher flick The Strangers became a hit back in 2008, with its tale of three masked, mostly silent figures terrorising Liv Tyler and husband Scott Speedman. That film made $82m from a $9m budget, so it’s somewhat surprising that it’s taken ten years to get the inevitable sequel off the ground. Still, here it is, and while it doesn’t exactly improve on its predecessor, it’s still a perfectly serviceable slasher movie that does exactly what you expect, with a modicum of style to boot.

Directed by Johannes Roberts (who made last year’s low budget shark thriller 47 Metres Down), The Strangers: Prey at Night centres on a family of four: mum Cindy (Christina Hendricks), dad Mike (Martin Henderson), jock son Luke (Lewis Pullman) and sulky-faced daughter Kinsey (Bailee Madison). While driving trouble-maker Kinsey to her new boarding school, the family stop off at an abandoned mobile home park for the night, only to find themselves stalked and hunted by a trio of mask-wearing psychopaths.

That’s literally all there is to the plot, which sticks closely to the tried and tested slasher formula, right down to the characters making monumentally dumb, shout-at-the-screen decisions like splitting up at exactly the wrong moment, or inexplicably leaving all their phones behind. That said, Roberts knows what he’s doing when it comes to the slasher sequences and he orchestrates an effective assortment of jump scares and nasty moments, including the signature loud knock on the door that characterised the first movie.

To be fair, the film does occasionally distinguish itself as being more than just a generic slasher sequel. Two impressive sequences stand out, both of which contain striking images – the first involving a swimming pool and a lot of blood and the second featuring a flaming truck crossing a bridge.

In addition, the film makes inspired ironic use of classic power ballads like Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” Kim Wilde’s “Kids in America,” and Air Supply’s “Making Love Out of Nothing at All”, which, along with some stylish credits, give the whole thing a pleasing 1980s throwback vibe, despite the fact that it’s set in the present day.

All four leads are effective in their roles (particularly Hendricks, whose performance is probably better than the film really deserves), but let’s just say that it’s hard not to wish the kill order was reversed. Similarly, the masked psychopaths – named in the credits as Dollface (Emma Bellomy), Pin-Up Girl (Lea Enslin), and Man in the Mask (Damian Maffei) – are suitably creepy and the film contains a nice callback to the original film’s most memorable moment, when Liv Tyler asks one of the killers, “why are you doing this to us?” and receives the answer, “because you were home”. Millennials, eh?

While ultimately too formulaic to achieve real terror, The Strangers: Prey at Night nonetheless delivers on its basic promise of a fun Friday night slasher flick and has a handful of moments that will stay with you. Worth seeing, if you like that sort of thing.

*** 3/5

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