Between the creatures I recently saw in A Quiet Place and vibe and soundtrack characterising The Strangers: Prey at Night, I feel like I’m constantly living in a Stranger Things-themes universe. If you’re like: “What the hell are you on about, Mr HorrorWorld&Reviews”, don’t worry, I’ll elaborate on this first paragraph soon.
Being one of those people who were never too fond of The Strangers (2008), I watched this belated sequel more than one month after it hit theatres and going in with no anticipation whatsoever. However, upon reading a couple of spoiler-free positive reviews by critics I highly appreciate, my expectation grew a little bit.
The Strangers: Prey at Night follows a family of four on a road trip that, upon stopping at a mobile home park where their relatives live, find the place unsettlingly deserted. They decide to spend the night there anyway, which seems a pretty sensible idea (at least to them, not to the viewer) until three masked psychos – the villains from the 2008 original – stalked and play psychological sadistic games with them.
The same premise of the first movie is, here, accompanied by an overall late 80s vibe: the lighting, the music, the characters’ outfit, the location… everything seems to be taken from an 80s horror flick. And I really can’t understand why: this movie doesn’t try to pay homage to 80s horror cinema, thus this whole 80s feel seems highly misplaced. The only reason I could think of for why the filmmakers made this choice is that they very much liked Stranger Things and tried to recreate the same atmosphere.
Nevertheless, the misuse of 80s atmosphere is not even an issue in comparison to the dumbness of the characters – both “good guys” and villains. From now on, this review might include minor spoilers – which I’m going to notify – so you can either proceed with caution or skip to my final grade: I really need to include examples in order to prove my point.
Despite the 80s references, Prey at Night is set in present time, which means people have smart phones. Thus, the filmmakers come up with the laziest idea to have phones confiscated in order to give the characters a lower ground than the assailants.
These assailants, however, as it happened throughout the first movie [MINI-SPOILERS] chase the victims trying to scare them by giggling and then disappearing in the dark. What’s the point? Is that supposed to be frightening? And how do they disappear out of the blue anyway? To my knowledge, these people are human beings as opposed to supernatural forces, so it makes no sense for them to vanish as they were ghosts. The only explanation is that the filmmakers count on the audience’s naivety not to question plot holes.
As though this isn’t enough, [MINI-SPOILER] at one point the daughter of the family hides in a sort of bug tube and screams “please, stop!”, to which a masked face appears close to her, giggling “we’re just getting started!” and keeps laughing way after the girl has run away. Why? I must admit that scene was hilarious, though.
Since these villains are quite dumb, at one point in the movie two of the main characters [MINI-SPOILER] get the upper-hand: they have one of the strangers at gunpoint, but instead of shooting, they turn their back and run away. What?! And that happened after the assailants have proved not to be fucking around. Seriously, these characters are some of the worst I’ve seen in a popular movie in a long time!
Besides, the acting ranges from wooden and dull to downright ridiculously bad, which makes you not want to care for any of the people involved in Prey at Night.
Yet, this flick is filled to the brim with fake jump-scares and, even the real ones, are extremely ineffective and nonsensical: for example, [MINI-SPOILER] when two good guys enter one of the mobile houses, they find something that terrifies them, they switch on the lights and a freaking loud noise pops up to enhance the creepy sentences the strangers have written on walls and windows with, presumably, blood. This specific scene would have been ten times more effective and frightening if it was silent or accompanied by an eerie background music; unfortunately, the filmmaker preferred to startle the audience with a loud noise that’s purely cinematic and drags the attention away from the realism.
I guess you can tell I didn’t really like Prey at Night – which is an understatement – but I could also appreciate the fact that, if you switch your brain off for the 80 minutes runtime, the movie is never boring. In terms of pace, this movie worked better than the original and the production values weren’t bad. Besides, both protagonists and antagonists actually do something in this flick, as opposed to just stand like lemons throughout the whole ride. That’s about it.
As I always say, don’t make this negative review stop you from checking out the movie and make up your own mind about it. However, this is a flick that I definitely don’t recommend.
The Strangers: Prey at Night 3.5/10
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My review is also available on IMDb – The Strangers: Prey at Night