Film Review: The Strangers: Prey at Night (2018)

‘This film was created to serve one purpose and one purpose only: to make money

2018 in Cinema:

The Strangers: Prey at Night

Directed by: Johannes Roberts

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

 

This film was created to serve one purpose and one purpose only: to make money. And it’s completely evident by the film we are given. The Strangers: Prey at Night is a long-delayed sequel to the 2008 film, The Strangers (full disclosure: I haven’t seen The Strangers), which is all the more annoying that in a decade since they haven’t found anything better to make with the franchise than this.

After a couple are murdered by the masked killers in the opening sequence, we are introduced to our main family: Mike (Martin Henderson, The Ring), Cindy (Christina Hendricks), son Luke (Lewis Pullman) and daughter Kinsey (Bailee Madison), who soon set on a journey to visit a trailer park to see their aunt and uncle (the couple who were murdered at the start), because Kinsey is being a rebellious daughter so they’re sending her to a boarding school. After arriving late in the evening and seeing a note telling them that aunt and uncle have gone to bed, they set about forcing some family activities but soon end up split apart and soon become prey to the strangers (I’m not 100% what they’re called as a trio, but that’ll do).

Let’s analyse a few things there: firstly, Kinsey is a troubled daughter. This plays absolutely no part in the film other than serving an excuse to get them to the trailer park and have her storm off. They even use up a few lines of dialogue informing us that the parents are borderline making themselves destitute to be able to afford to send her off to boarding school. Why is this added? Do their financial issues play a part in the film? No. Is it even brought up again? No. It’s one of the many pointless additions to the film that serve no purpose. Much like the trouble that Kinsey is apparently in: it’s never specifically stated what she’s done but the implications we get bring forth two completely different scenarios. In one moment we’re told of a specific incident involving Kinsey and two other friends and in other incidents we’re told that the boarding school is the ‘last resort’, meaning it’s not necessarily one specific incident. It’s all extra information that is completely and needlessly added, especially because in horror films there’s one rule: if one character is given the most back-story, however good or bad that back-story is, they’ll be surviving by the end scene (whether they make it through that scene is another matter); so we know that Kinsey will survive towards the end and with all this added nonsense to her character it’s all the more perplexing. Can they not have visited their aunt and uncle for a family visit and used all the saved dialogue to build up the whole family, rather than making her a troubled teenager for no reason what-so-ever.

I may have gone a bit overboard, but the writing in this film is terrible. From the character development to the plot development we’re given so little that we can’t possibly invest in the story. Even the location is poorly written in. In horror films you can have ones like Cloverfield where the alien can attack city block after city block, with a never ending space of land; but that land has been acknowledged. We know they’re attacking a city. More traditional horror films tend to focus on one area: a house, a building, a street; and usually we are given a lay of the land. This takes place in a trailer park, but we’re never given a tour of the trailer park. I don’t need to know every nook and cranny, but I need to know a scale of the park so I know how worried I should be for their safety. In many scenes they can’t escape the strangers, implying it’s not a massive trailer park, but then she runs passed a children’s park next to a basketball pitch half-way through the film and later on by a pool implying the trailer park is huge (and they’re staying at number 47, so surely there’s at least 46 others), so how scared should we be for their safety when we don’t know exactly how big the trailer park is. It also doesn’t help that it all happens at night; why can’t we arrive during the day, have them explore the trailer park on a little family holiday to give us the scope of the land (while also proving that they are only prey at night, because with no daylight we don’t know that they’re only prey at night, they simply appear as prey whenever they have arrived) and then when they are chased we know roughly where they can hide or where they can run to.

I also don’t know if the strangers are given much of a back-story in the first film, but aside from blood-hungry killers they aren’t given anything or note in this film, nor are they given any dialogue. It’s so infuriating knowing that they writers so obviously didn’t care to create enough history or depth to these characters or conflicts, instead opting for anything to get four bodies to a location where they can be killed and rake in loads of money from a relatively small budget (as of writing this it’s already made five-times its budget). My favourite genre, arguably, is horror. And every time I see a horror film advertised I get a bit excited about being scared or seeing something unique: last year I loved Happy Death Day, this year I loved A Quiet Place, but then you’re given a Winchester or an Unsane or a Ghost Stories or a Truth or Dare or a The Strangers: Prey at Night and it feels like we’re being punished for having a good horror. And it’s from the same director as 47 Meters Down; another poor horror film.

Is this one of the worst horrors of recent times? No. Overall it’s not too terrible; just the writing is. I was never bored (its short running time and straight-to-the-point action prevents that), but I could never truly be emotionally invested, and it’s that emotional investment which separates the cheap horror films from the truly scary ones.

 

Personal: * *     Acting: * *     Writing: *     Presentation: * *

Overall Rating: * ¾

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