It has come to my attention that the general feelings surrounding the new sequel to 2008’s The Strangers are largely negative. I’ve seen it called predictable, typical, victim to a plotline teeming with ‘baffling lapses in logic”. And whilst I can’t claim that those statements are entirely untrue, I CAN state despite them, I think this film is a worthy follow up to a hard act to follow, and a thoroughly enjoyable bit of home-invasion horror.
Directed by Johannes Roberts (47 Metres Down), and written by Ben Ketai and Bryan Bertino (who actually wrote and directed the first movie), and with no specific connection to it’s predecessor timeline-wise, The Strangers: Prey At Night focuses on a new family in a new location, with good old baghead, Dollface, and Pin-Up Girl returning to wreak violent havoc, for seemingly no reason other than that which they darkly stated in the previous film – “because you were home”.
Planning to stay overnight in a largely deserted trailer park on the way to dropping their wayward daughter Kinsey (Bailee Madison) off at boarding school, Mike (Martin Henderson) and Cindy (Christina Hendricks), along with big brother Luke (Lewis Pullman) pull up to find the only remaining inhabitants brutally butchered, shortly before discovering their phones all smashed to pieces and realising that this is no overnight at Butlins.
Rather than the slowburn introduction of the fractured relationship of the first movie, Bertino has very cleverly stitched the family’s personal difficulties straight into the action, wasting no time in splitting them apart just as they’ve made some attempt to reconnect, the cast putting in solid performances at unfolding their issues with one another in the same instance they’re sent running for their lives. You could argue that this clips the tension short, but we’re working with a sequel – so if you’ve seen the original, it’s fair to say you know what’s coming, and if you haven’t, the pace and gore more than make up for it.
With plenty of particularly vicious super violence set to a pounding 80’s soundtrack, the volume creating a horrible claustrophobia, and the juxtaposition of the disco synth introducing a dark almost-humour to proceedings, people dipping their toes into this particularly unpleasant pond nor stalwart fans of the franchise who’ve been waiting will be disappointed.
Sure, I can admit, it’s not totally original with it’s handling of the standard genre tropes. It’s not groundbreaking. It’s not wildly inspired or any sort of real shock to the system. But the only real yardstick for comparison is its relatively flawless previous incarnation, and to be honest, if it ain’t broke, why fix it?
The film meets most of the criticisms of a justification for a second movie with more than enough blood and guts, a touch of genius through simplicity in the pure, miserable, and visceral pool scene, and whilst some of the “this could really happen” horror of The Strangers is somewhat diluted here, The Strangers Prey At Night will still have you deadlocking your door and double-checking behind your curtains, which as far as I’m concerned; is definitely good enough. Sophie Francois