The Strangers stands as one of my favorite horror films of all time. It was released out of the blue in 2008, its premise was simple yet well executed, and the three killers were so terrifying because there wasn’t much reasoning behind their desire to murder. To the question of “why are you doing this?” they answer with “because you were home” and if that doesn’t send a chill down your spine, then I don’t know what will. I was very excited when it was announced that a sequel of sorts was finally being released ten years later. Unfortunately, The Strangers: Prey At Night doesn’t even come close to its predecessor, but it isn’t without some fine horror moments.
The film starts out with the three masked killers from the original parking their truck in front of a random trailer. They murder an older couple inside and the opening credits roll. The plot then goes something like this: Mike (Martin Henderson) and Cindy (Christina Hendricks) take their son Luke (Lewis Pullman) and daughter Kinsey (Bailee Madison) up to their aunt and uncle’s trailer park to spend a weekend together before Kinsey goes off to boarding school. There’s tension in the family, especially between the rebellious Kinsey and her parents. They don’t arrive to the trailer park until it’s dark out, so they collect the keys from the front office where Uncle Marvin has seemingly left a note that he’ll see them in the morning, and then they go settle into their trailer.
They hear a knock on the door soon after settling in, and it’s Dollface unmasked with her face hidden in the shadows. She asks for Tamara and Cindy tells her she must have the wrong place. They don’t think too much of it. As the family is about to start playing a game together, Kinsey storms out of the trailer. Mike and Cindy send Luke after her to try and talk to her. Luke and Kinsey end up finding a trailer with the door open, and they discover their aunt and uncle brutally murdered inside of it.
Back at the trailer the family is staying at, Dollface knocks on the door again asking for Tamara and it definitely creeps Mike and Cindy out. They leave to find the kids, who are traumatized from what they just saw. Once the kids tell their parents about their aunt and uncle, all hell starts to slowly break loose with the killers coming after the family.
My problem with the film is that while the original was very tense and the three masked killers wanted to tease their victims all night before killing them which created lots of suspense and a slower burn, this one is more of a slasher. It really is quite similar to an ’80’s horror flick: moody and atmospheric, terrible acting, lots of scenes with one of the killers chasing one of the family members. In that regard, it does a decent job. But I (and I’d guess most fans of the original) wanted something more along the lines of the first film.
This one has some genuine scares that had me jumping out of my seat, some tense moments, and an action packed third act. It has a lot of horror cliches though, whether they’re meant to be ironic or not. It’s hard to care about any of the characters with the thin plot and bad acting.. There’s quite an awesome scene at the trailer park pool later in the film though, and there are a handful of worthwhile horror moments throughout the film. Just looking at the three masked killers is scary, so it does also have that going for it.
The Strangers: Prey At Night is worth seeing for horror fans looking for something to tide them over until something better comes along, but for everyone else, it’s an easy decision to avoid this one.