AVIRON PICTURES (2018)

 

Director: Johannes Roberts

 

Starring: Christina Hendricks, Martin Henderson, Bailee Madison, Lewis Pullman

To start this off, The Strangers: Prey at Night is a ludicrously bad title.

 

It’s been ten years since The Strangers was released, a horror movie that scared the heck out of me – mostly due to its overly simplistic approach. One cabin, no motive, cat and mouse game to the death. That was all that was needed. Now, The Strangers: Prey at Night takes us to the trailer park as Dollface, Pin-Up and Man in the Mask return for more stabby, stalky fun.

 

Can the sequel usurp the original?

In an attempt to bring the family closer together, Mike (Henderson) and wife Cindy (Hendricks) take their son Luke (Pullman) and angst-ridden daughter Kinsey (Madison) away to their uncle’s trailer park for a much-needed break. Deserted for the holidays, the family very quickly realise they aren’t the only tenants in the park – there are some masked maniacs on the loose and they want to have some fun.

 

That’s pretty much all you need to know about the movie. The Strangers: Prey at Night takes the basic premise of the original and just extends it to a trailer park – thus more places to run, hide and be sliced up. This does lend to some more interesting shots and visuals, but by the end, this felt like it had gone in the same direction as The Purge franchise – masked baddies surrounded by neon lights…just…because. Now, the movie isn’t actually that bad, its problem is that it’s filled with the standard clichés – ‘let’s investigate this trailer with the door ajar’, ‘I have a weapon but won’t use it’ and other typical daft decisions – and it’s these tropes (that are so obviously apparent) that drain away some of the enjoyment. Where the characters may be undercooked or unlikable, the violence is pretty high, though by the end had crossed into ridiculous territory. The Strangers succeeded by keeping it simple, Prey at Night fails by trying to expand unnecessarily. Sometimes, simple is best.

 

The 1980’s soundtrack is rad, however.

 

Bailee Madison takes the lead here, and whilst her performance isn’t bad, her character is just a pain in the stab wound. Angry, stroppy teen cliché alert. Whatever the writers tried to do with her going through the movie, her character in the first half of the movie isn’t one you’ll want to follow. All of the characters fade into the background, really. There’s nothing exceptional about any of them or their performances – they’re just there. The Strangers worked on the basis of its decent characters, whereas here, the brother and sister seemed more like they were into each other, which is simply weird. The villains continue to mean business, even if they lack the ability to move quickly. They were patently the high point of the movie.

 

There are plenty of moments throughout where’ll you be rolling your eyes out of your skull – why, oh why, would you logically decide to walk into a trailer because its door is open?? Why do the bad guys not just finish the job quickly? WHY NOT USE THE FU****G GUN?!?! Argh. It should be expected that particular conventions will bleed into genre movies, but in every scene almost? The final scene is literally unbelievable and when you see the act, you’ll get it – i.e. Car. Explodes. But…

 

It’s always nice to hear Kim Wilde, Bonnie Tyler and Tiffany blast through the speakers, however, the score itself was generic and didn’t do much to ramp up the tension. Johannes Roberts frames some of the shots excellently, and, thankfully, not every scare is telegraphed by the camerawork. Moments with the antagonists blurred out of shot still work effectively and the grim filtered cinematography the visual tone consistent with the original movie (for the most part).

 

Also, why were the lyrics to Smells Like Teen Spirit scrawled onto a window?

 

If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen most of the movies key points, which is a shame. Despite its obvious pitfalls, cliché reliance and weak characters, The Strangers: Prey at Night isn’t an awful movie. It has its moments that’ll leave you claustrophobic as you watch and the masked nasties are generally effective as they stalk and slash their way across the park. It's not as effective - or good - as the original and you’ll certainly see better horror movies this year, but also a lot worse too.

April 17th 2018

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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