This much-anticipated sequel fails to capture the spirit of the original.
When I saw The Strangers back in 2008 I was terrified. I thought and still think it’s the scariest movie I’ve ever seen. ‘The Strangers Prey at Night’; however, is an inconsistent mess that can’t decide whether it wants to be a remake, a sequel, or a spiritual successor to John Carpenter’s take on the Stephen King novel, Christine.
At the beginning of the movie, we’re introduced to the family of four that we spend the entirety of the movie with. Christina Hendricks plays the mom, Cindy. Martin Henderson plays the dad, Mike. Lewis Pullman plays their son, Luke and Bailee Madison plays their daughter, and the main character Kinsey.
Prey at Night makes its issues apparent from the word ‘go’ by making sure not a single character is either likable or relateable. Kinsey is upset about having to go to boarding school so she spends the entire first act ignoring her parents and fighting with her brother. It’s not that there’s inherently anything wrong with her being an angsty teen, but everything about it down to her oversized RAMONES t-shirt is a cliche. The fact that the plot moves at a breakneck speed doesn’t do her character any favors either.
Five minutes in, the car is packed and Kinsey is sitting in the back seat crying which should be sad but her parents shut the trunk and do a secret handshake thing and act like they’re going on vacation.They never seem even remotely concerned or upset about the fact that they’re shipping their daughter off to boarding school. Luke is even more of a cliche. His entire character can be boiled down to Kinsey’s annoying older brother who likes baseball.
“Prey at Night makes its issues apparent from the word ‘go’ by making sure not a single character is either likable or relateable.”
The only good actor is Christina Hendrichs but it doesn’t matter because the dialog they’re all given to work with is be impossible to navigate regardless of talent. And on top of that the actor they picked to play Luke has a receding hairline and wrinkles even though he’s playing high school senior. It’s just so lazy and sets a low budget tone right off the bat. The only truly recognizable face in the film is Christina Hendricks, but she feels like she’s on autopilot for this role, much like she did in 2016’s ‘Bad Santa 2’. It’s unfortunate because she’s shown on numerous other occasions that she has some serious acting chops.
I mentioned earlier that this movie is trying to be three different things at once, but its strongest focus is on rehashing the most pivotal moments from the first movie but this time around they’re set to a near carbon copy of John Carpenter’s score for ‘The Fog’. Everything about the introduction of the Strangers is the same as the first movie, but much quicker and somehow worse. Mike goes to make out with Cindy, the doll face girl knocks on the door, her face is covered in shadow and she asks for someone Tamara before leaving. She even comes back after a little while to ask for Tamara again.
The 80’s aesthetic also feels completely out of place in a movie like this. The title treatment, the soundtrack and the font used in the credits is straight off a Stephen King novel, though and it feels so unnecessary. It’s not explicitly stated when it takes place but judging by the 2007 Chrysler Town and Country, the inclusion of flip phones and an out of place joke from Luke equating getting rid of cable to being poor it feels like it takes place in 2008.
“It removes all of the tension… All of it.”
It’s not only, again, lazy but it removes all of the tension. All of it. Even if the characters were developed and somewhat likeable like Kristen and James were in the first film, it still wouldn’t be creepy because we’ve seen it done before. The craziest thing about all this is that we’re given more to go on with these characters than we were for Kristen and James in the first one too. The difference is that the first movie was built on subtlety and realism which is something sorely missing here. It’s hard to feel anything when characters die because the way the movie is written makes you feel like you’re watching a movie.
I will admit that once Kinsey and Luke decide they’re going to fight back, the movie improves drastically.. In fact the best scene in the movie is the one that’s partially shown in the trailer when Luke faces off against The Man in the Mask at the pool. The scene is edited well, it looks great and it has some actual, genuine tension. Any scene that involves a character being chased by the pickup truck is also pretty good. To call this movie inspired by ‘Christine’ would be a massive understatement, but regardless those scenes are well-directed and fun to watch.
“…scenes are well-directed and fun to watch.”
I wish I could pinpoint one small thing that I could change about this movie to make it better, but that’s just not the case. Nearly everything about it from the script to the directing to the acting is just plain bad and I’m just really disappointed. ‘The Strangers’ is one of my favorite movies of all time, and while I don’t have any issue with a shift in tone for a ten-years-later sequel, this movie just has no idea what it wants to be and it shows.
The Strangers: Prey at Night [Review]
The Strangers: Prey at Night can’t decide if it wants to be a remake, a reboot or a 1980’s homage.