The Strangers, released way back in 2008, while not exactly revolutionary, was a pretty damn good horror flick. Creepy masks, sharp blades, and of course the scariest motive ever added up to a pretty solidly scary experience. Evil in The Strangers films doesn’t have a higher motive, cosmic stakes, familial connections, or anything of the like. It strikes in fact, for no reason at all, “because you were home.”
This creeping dread doesn’t exactly take hold in the sequel, which largely abandons scares for camp, dark corners for neon lit pools, and bland suburbia for a a colorful, gaudy trailer park. Horror’s changed in the ten years since the original Strangers release, and Prey At Night is a much different sequel than we’d likely have gotten back in 2010.
It sure is a fun one though, embracing the sillier aspects of the Slasher genre without losing it’s razor sharp edge. Like the original, Prey At Night’s bodycount is pretty low as these films go. The masked murderer’s aren’t Jason Vorhees either; while they can take a punch (or a stabbing…or an occasional explosion) their only human, susceptible to wounding just like their victims.
There’s no real “fighting back” scenes like the ones featured in many home invasion films like Straw Dogs, but the family at the stories core has a little fight in them. Sure, their prone to forgetting about their surroundings many firearms, leaving all their cellphones in easily smash-able area, and generally walking down dark corridors at inopportune times, but they also don’t keel over like lambs to the slaughter.
Bailee Madison, as the rebellious daughter, is a particular highlight. Madison, who was previously a child actor in such films as Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, isn’t exactly given Shakespearian soliloquies to work with, but her moxy and willpower standout, giving life to what could have easily been a stock character.
Christina Hendricks plays the mom as well, for all you Mad Men fans out there. She’s not given a whole lot to do either, but with the material available, Hendricks shows she hasn’t left her acting chops back in the 60’s.
I’d be remiss as well to neglect mentioning how creative cinematography in Prey At Night is. One extended scene at a pool, lit by neon palms trees, stands out as one of the most beautifully shot horror scenes I’ve seen in awhile. A lot of times it feels like horror movies are content to just point the camera at the scary shit and call it a day. Prey At Night shows when you take the time, you can make you camerawork at the same way as any genre.
At the end of the axe, this is just a fun film, a different slasher than the original, but certainly not a worse one. It’s nice to see a horror movie not take itself so seriously every once in awhile. This is one worth catching in theaters, hopefully with a crowd who will scream and laugh alongside you, at all the best parts.
8 out of 10