I liked the 2008 horror-thriller “The Strangers”. It was essentially a slasher film but with an emphasis on atmosphere and tension over the traditional gore galore. And I found something a bit creepy and unsettling about the randomness at the core of the terror. It was a knife-twisting home invasion flick with enough craft to cover its handful of flaws. That certainly isn’t the case for its sequel.
It took ten years to get a sequel but it’s hard to believe they spent more than 10 days conceiving it. “The Strangers: Prey at Night” is a paper-thin follow-up that neither captures what I enjoyed about the first film nor offers anything remotely new. In fact it barely seems to try. It hurriedly thrusts its small and underdeveloped cast into the sites of the killers and expects us to care. I certainly did not.
The film starts with the all-too-familiar tag ‘Based on True Events’, but it is so in the slightest sense. Series creator and sequel co-writer Bryan Bertino stated that inspiration came from the Manson Family murders mixed with a string of neighborhood robberies from his childhood. You can see shades of that in the first film. “Prey at Night” doesn’t show much inspiration at all.
Story-wise this is all we get: Cindy (Christina Hendricks) and husband Mike (Martin Henderson) set off on a family weekend with their two detached teens. The idea is to spend time together before their angst-filled daughter Kinsey (Bailee Madison) is shipped off to boarding school. Her older brother Luke (Lewis Pullman) is caught in the middle of the parents/daughter bickering.
This not-so-happy lot drive to their aunt and uncle’s trailer park campground. Too bad for them the only people they find are Dollface, Pin Up Girl, and the Man in the Mask (yes, they actually have names. I had to look it up to make sure). Your run-of-the-mill terror and mayhem ensues. I think the idea is that the family is pulled closer together throughout the ordeal, but the movie doesn’t seem too interested in all that character stuff. Instead we get scene after scene of various family members in peril, slowly opening doors, slowly walking down hallways, slowly rounding corners, etc. But fear not, they run around a lot too.
While watching “Prey at Night” one word repeatedly came to mind – flat. That describes nearly every facet of this movie. The one remotely impressive scene is a swimming pool sequence. In it we get some clever camera work and a welcomed bit of genuine tension. Otherwise the movie is a wash of reprocessed horror gimmicks which we’ve all seen over and over. I guess ten years wasn’t long enough to put together a good second installment.
VERDICT – 1.5 STARS