Gareth Barsby is a graduate of the University of Chester who writes many short stories, poems and reviews.
The Strangers: Prey at Night
The Strangers: Prey at Night is a sequel to last decade’s The Strangers, which was an effective, though forgettable horror flick about a couple stalked by a trio of masked murderers in their home. Prey at Night brings forth a similar scenario, only the killers are stalking a family—a mother, Cindy (Christina Hendricks), father, Mike (Martin Henderson), daughter, Kinsey (Bailee Madison) and son, Luke (Lewis Pullman)—at a mobile home park.
Right at the beginning of the movie, they say this is “based on a true story” and you can imagine this movie’s killers existing in real life. if a monster in a horror movie is going to scare us, it has to be believable or something we can't understand or predict. Vampires and werewolves won't cut it anymore; no-one believes in them anymore and we've seen so much of them they're too predictable.
The killers in The Strangers: Prey at Night—Dollface (Emma Bellomy), the Man in the Mask (Damian Maffei) and Pin-Up (Lia Enslin)—are not supernatural or undead, and they neither constantly quip nor stay completely silent. While they are far from sympathetic, you truly believe they are human and that makes them all the more frightening. So too are they unpredictable, as they have no real reason to commit the murders they do—sadly, indeed, there are people like that in reality.
But What of the Heroes?
The killers would be even more frightening, however, with a stronger cast for them to stalk. In order for a horror film to have true horrors, it helps for the audience to relate to the characters in danger, but it’s hard to do so for the family here as they come off as too bland to really root for. They do mention having worries and wants, but come off as more stock horror hero figures rather than sympathetic characters. With A Quiet Place, another flick that involves a family against horrors, it felt like there was more time spent getting to know that family and the strife they were going through, even if they rarely spoke a word.
The actors do a decent job with what they have, it's simply that their characters never really seem to come alive. We have the typical good mother and father wondering where they went wrong with their kids, and Madison's character is your familiar final girl who spends the finale screeching herself hoarse and whacking everything.
That is not to say, however, one won’t enjoy The Strangers: Prey at Night. There’s plenty of solid scares and it flies by quickly, but there is still a strong sense it could have been better. The killers are interesting characters, but it's not worth popping down to the cinema for them alone. Wait for a rental.