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Sometimes, substance is overrated…
While we’ll be the first to admit that sequels on horror movies a solid decade in the rear view mirror are rarely a good idea; The Strangers: Prey At Night isn’t without some value as it serves as a stylistic tribute to some of the films that have come before it but is truly lacking in any legitimate substance or even logic to be a truly memorable entry into the horror canon.
A family’s road trip takes a dangerous turn when they arrive at a secluded mobile home park to stay with some relatives and find it mysteriously deserted. Under the cover of darkness, three masked psychopaths pay them a visit to test the family’s every limit as they struggle to survive.
If you’re looking for more than the most thread bare of plots, actual logic and any kind of character development in The Strangers: Prey At Night then you might want to get off this ride now, but that being said it pours all its efforts into crafting something incredibly stylistic from a visual standpoint that pays tribute to (or flat out rips off) depending on your point of view.
From director Johannes Roberts who gave us last year’s surprisingly entertaining 47 Meters Down this film is basically a love letter or a mix tape (a playlist for you millennials out there) that he’s made with all of his iconic horror inspirations and moments. The film is littered with visual and musical cues that harkens back to the likes of Tobe Hooper, Brian DePalma, John Carpenter and even some Alfred Hitchcock. There’s very little that is fresh and original in this, but at least he’s ripping off from some of the best.
That being said this is a movie for cinephiles to spot who Roberts is cribbing from and not much else. It’s stylistically very slick and is visually entertaining but there’s the bare minimum of plot and even less character development. We aren’t invested in any of the characters for any reason and that actually diminishes from the overall fright value of the film. It’s much more terrifying to watch someone you actually give a damn about get clubbed in the face with an axe, then if it’s just a random person with little reason to care about them other then the story is just positioning them to MAKE us care. It has far too much of a voyeuristic edge to it and only creates any palpable tension through the visual cues and set pieces rather than with a reasonable foundation of character work.
Granted it’s none of the actors fault, Bailee Madison, Christina Hendricks, Martin Henderson & Lewis Pullman were all fine as the family on the run but when the script just runs them from slick set piece to slick set piece it’s hard to get emotionally invested in any of the action around us.
Picture and sound quality on the Blu-Ray are first rate as you’d expect but the special features on the disc are left a little wanting. There are three short behind the scenes featurettes, an unrated version of the film (which adds very little), a music video and an alternate ending.
At the end of the day, The Strangers: Prey At Night gets a slight pass thanks to it being a visually strong film, even though it’s more than a little derivative. If you like a good exercise in style then this will be up your alley, but if you’re looking for something more, you’ll have a hard time finding it.