‘The Strangers: Prey at Night’ Review: A Sloppy, Bloody Mess

The Strangers Prey At Night
The Strangers: Prey At Night is exactly the movie you think it would be. A quasi-sequel to the 2008 thriller, Prey At Night lacks the suspense and emotionally resonant characters that made the original a surprise hit. At a brisk 80 minutes, the movie’s lightning-fast pace distracts you from the lackluster killing scenes and awkward song choice. Written by Bryan Bertino, the writer and director of the original, The Strangers: Prey at Night is so average it hurts.

“Based on true events,” The Strangers: Prey at Night follows a family on a brief road trip to drop the daughter off at a correctional boarding school. When they stop for the night at a trailer-park run by their uncle, things take a dramatic turn for the worse. Three masked killers, wearing the same disguises as the mysterious figures in the original, slowly torture and terrify the family. Now, in stereotypical fashion, the family that does nothing but bicker realize just how much they all love each other as they face their potential deaths. Christina Hendricks, the mother of the family, is probably the biggest name in the film but that doesn’t stop her from turning in a mediocre performance just like everyone else.

Instead of coming across as mysterious, the killers feel goofy and blessed with incredibly convenient foresight. The original film kept most of the action contained to a single setting (a house in the woods) to keep things suspenseful but this one utilizes an entire trailer park. While the park allows for a lot of wide-shots showing characters running that feel like a throwback to ’80s slasher films, The Strangers: Prey at Night doesn’t have the claustrophobic feel that made the original one scary. No matter where the people hide, the killers seem to always be one step ahead of them and that ultimately takes the suspenseful feeling out of the movie.

As far as the movie’s slasher elements go, Prey At Night succeeds at building a tense atmosphere when the killer is closing in on his prey. The chase scenes all have a sense of dread hanging above them and the camera movement, usually done through long, dramatic zooms, adds a dynamic feel to each scene. Since the audience experiences most of the movie from Kinsey’s perspective, moments where she hides and desperately watches are pretty enjoyable, and actress Bailee Madison radiates fear off the screen. But once the action intensifies, Prey At Night shies away from showing too much gore or brutality and feels more like a PG-13 movie than the hard R it is. Instead of relying on a tense score or creepy songs to set a mood during most of the kill scenes, director Johannes Roberts packs the movie full of his favorite ’80s pop songs, and it feels forcibly contrived instead of genuine.  

The Strangers Prey at Night Pool

What holds Prey At Night back the most is its dull, idiotic characters. The family at the center of the story does all of the generic, idiotic things audiences expect from people in horror movies. Instead of immediately leaving when they have the chance, the group sticks around to investigate and the Dad even decides to split the group up into pairs! As if I couldn’t smack my head hard enough in the movie theater, these characters never seem to run in a zig-zag when they’re being chased and desperately beg for their silent killers to stop what they’re doing. 

The worst thing about the family is how they are presented. Like many movie siblings, the brother and sister in Prey At Night rip on each other, but their level of mutual disdain in the first half of the movie feels overly dramatic. Since they are so foul to each other at the beginning of the movie, the forced changes in their relationship as the plot progresses lack any emotional weight because it’s hard to make an audience care about characters who don’t even care about each other. In The Strangers, the two characters in the center had an interesting relationship dynamic and watching them work through their own personal problems as the situation deteriorated around them made everything feel more intense.

For the most part, The Strangers: Prey at Night is very forgettable. Save for an interesting fight sequence set around a pool, there’s nothing that separates this movie from any other home invasion-esque thriller. If you’re in the mood for some suspenseful media, check out the original or Helter Skelter, the in-depth chronicle of the Manson killings that inspired Bertino when he first thought up the franchise. In many ways, this movie has all the pieces to be a direct-to- Netflix hit, but since it is going to theaters it will likely be ignored and quickly forgotten about. 

Final Score: 3.5/10

10 Female Directors Who Could Helm DC’s Batgirl Movie

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Batgirl Avoid StereotypesBatgirl was a project nobody knew was coming. It wasn’t part of the original DC Films slate back when it was announced in 2014. Yet in March 2017 it was announced that former The Avengers director Joss Whedon had been chosen by Warner Bros. and DC to helm a Batgirl movie. No progress was made on the project, but it seemed Warner Bros. was serious in the film as they announced it as part of their lineup at Comic-Con in 2017.

Yet after a year, Joss Whedon departed Batgirl. It isn’t known if Warner Bros. will still continue to actively pursue the film or if they will shelve it. It does appear though that the studio does plan to pick a woman to direct the film if they decide to move forward with the project. There are plenty of women working in Hollywood that would jump at the chance to direct a superhero film and plenty that would bring a unique perspective to the character.

These are just ten wonderful directors that could helm DC’s Batgirl movie. Click Next to get started!

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Nick Kazden

Nick Kazden

I love Batman, movies and Tyrion Lannister. Check me out on Youtube!