“Let Us Prey” – The Strangers: Prey at Night (Film Review)

*** Stars

2008 saw the continuation of home invasion horror as Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman were the turbulent couple placed on the war path and frivolous chopping block of trio masked psychopaths known only to the horror community as The Strangers (or by mask orientation, Dollface, Man in the Mask and Pin-Up Girl). This was one of the most frightening horror entries in recent years, leaving audiences double checking their doors of a night and drawing their curtains to avoid any unwanted peeping toms.

Word of a sequel was rife a year or so later initially with the idea that Tyler would return after the ambiguous close of The Strangers though this never truly took off. Almost ten years later and the trio return in The Strangers: Prey at Night, helmed by surprise hit 47 Metres Down‘s director Johannes Roberts.

This time the action takes a larger span as a family of four — mother Christina Hendricks, dad Martin Henderson and kiddos Bailee Madison and Lewis Pullman — head to a mobile home before rebel daughter Kinsey is shipped off to boarding school for the reason we can only assume is shockingly exampled fake smoking. Seriously, if it wasn’t actually mentioned in the film itself Prey at Night would be getting deducted a full point. The mobile home is of course located in a secluded, misty abyss of complete dread and complete hell no’s, the perfect and obviously most ideal arena for a wonderfully glorified killing spree brought on by… why? Well, why not?

Original director Bryan Bertino delivers the screenplay for the sequel to Roberts’ welcomed direction, fusing retro and synth styles to alleviate the formulaic home invasion genre into a stalk ’em slash ’em cat and mouse chase with an eye for character zoom. Roberts’ work is fast paced and keen to build tension, as noted in the underwater shark thriller 47 Metres Down. It transitions well over to a more standard style of thriller but somehow injects a fresh outlook on what we expect, enabling for scenes where Total Eclipse of the Heart plays over the Man in the Mask attacking one of our troubled family members as they duck and dive in and out of a pool surrounded by a neon beach theme. This revelling on from other horrific images which were absent in the original Strangers but almost stretches to extents to extenuate the true macabre nature of the unwanted visitors and their random acts of face-mutilating madness.

As talent other than the slashing kind goes, Hendricks and Henderson are substantial parental figures whereas its Madison and Pullman as the siblings who have the most fun as they not only dive in and out of mobile homes and playgrounds but actually fight back. Prey at Night is an alternative approach to the original where the duo of hapless victims merely spent the film dodging the equally as dodgy masks in darkened areas. Its sequel turns it on the head where the family become, through slicings and alternate means for revenge, become self-sufficient. This isn’t to say all of their actions are warranted — I can guarantee as an audience you will be yelling in unison to use that god-damn gun — but for the most it’s a wonderfully brutal attack on both ends.

The Strangers: Prey at Night is by no mean a perfect example of the home invasion/slasher genre but it’s one of the most enjoyable entries in the last few years, continuing the legacy of its trio of masked psychopaths and furthering the extent of their damage. The setting is near perfect though due to its extensive displays of chase sequences it loses the momentum and fright of the original where the formula was situated primarily in stalker territory.

Dir: Johannes Roberts

Scr: Bryan Bertino

Cast: Christina Hendricks, Martin Henderson, Bailee Madison, Lewis Pullman

Prd: Wayne Marc Godfrey

Music: Adrian Johnston

DOP: Ryan Samul

Runtime: 85 mins