For fans of the cult hit film from 2008 The Strangers, they will be disappointed to have waited a full decade for this follow up, The Strangers: Prey at Night, to be released as it is a cluttered mess, uninspired, and filled with tropes.
A family camps out in an abandoned trailer park for a night. However, they do not realize that it may just be one of the worst nights of their life, as three masked murders are hiding out there, waiting to kill their next victim.
When it comes to the original 2008 The Strangers film, I am actually not the biggest fan of it like the majority of viewers are. I do respect it, as it is an extremely remote horror film that essentially takes place in the household of one family. Even though the film attempts to make the horror feel more real by creating its main villains in a normal household, the film never managed to actually scare me or creep me out. It did have its moments here and there, but ultimately, it was rather forgettable.
After seeing The Strangers: Prey at Night, it is clear to me that the predecessor is considerably better in every single way, as this picture is one of the worst horror films of the entire year.
One of the worst offences in Prey at Night is that it is absolutely littered with tropes and cliché moments. For example, many of our lead protagonists decide to split up from their family to go down a dark hallway or street to investigate a strange sound. I wonder what could possibly happen next? This trope has been done so many times in multiple forms of entertainment such as film, television, and more. In fact, watching Prey at Night reminded me a lot of the old Scooby-Doo cartoons, but not in the good way. When I grew up, I really enjoyed Scooby-Doo, as it was a fun adventure for kids to watch, and had quality entertainment value to it. Prey at Night, however, does this cliché in such an unforgivable manner.
Additionally, whenever one of our protagonists in danger obtains a weapon that could seriously harm one of the three masked killers, of course, they somehow manage to lose it. Or, if somebody happens to find a vehicle, it is out of gas or won’t start up. Really?
The film also contains some truly terrible lines and the delivery of the lines by some of the actors can be bad as well. For me, there are few things worse in a horror film than horrible dialogue. When watching a horror film, you should be feeling a sudden unease creeping through your body, but, it is so tough to feel this when you cannot help but cringe at what a character has just said. That happens quite a bit during Prey at Night.
Furthermore, something that annoyed me about Prey at Night was that there was constantly music playing throughout a large portion of the film. This happened so much, that sometimes it seemed like I was watching some bizarre music video from the early 2000s.
Also, a lot of our characters are extremely stereotypical. First, we have the lead character in the film, Kinsey (Bailee Madison), who is a stereotypical teenage girl who is constantly on her cell phone and ignoring all things in the outside world. Then you have her parents Cindy (Christina Hendricks) and Mike (Martin Henderson) who are the stereotypical know it all parents. Finally, we have the brother Luke (Lewis Pullman) who is constantly a jerk to his sister and parents. None of these characters have development in the film whatsoever.
If anything, the strongest aspect of Prey at Night is Madison’s performance as Kinsey. Although her character was extremely surface level, she did do a lot with the performance, and delivered some strong moments in certain scenes. You can genuinely tell she is a great actress. The unfortunate thing is, she delivers a good performance in such a bad film. Here’s hoping she gets another role in a film in the future, but this time, a good film.
The editing styles in Prey at Night were pretty strange and bad as well. Many scenes transition to the next scene so quickly and jarringly. I am genuinely confused as to who thought these bizarre styles would be good.
It is also worth noting that this is not at all a sequel to the original 2008 film like many people were lead to believe. The film never once acknowledges that the previous entry exists, and often comes across as one of those terrible straight to DVD films that you see in the bargain bin at grocery stores.
Pray at Night should at least be scary or creepy in some shape or form, right? Unfortunately, it is not even that. This is mainly due to the fact that all the scares in the picture come from lame and uninspired jump scares. I dream of the day when horror films no longer use jump scares, as they are some of the worst elements in a horror film. To me, when I see a jump scares in a film, that does not scare me one single bit. What would have been unsettling in Prey at Night was if we got to see the family slowly grow hopeless and start to lose their sanity as they feel like they will be killed the next minute, but this never once happens in the film. The entire film, we just see the family roam around the park looking for the murders, which, is such a dumb character decision, as well.
The Strangers: Prey at Night is littered with tropes, bad characters, bizarre editing styles, and jump scares galore, making it one of the worst horror films this year.
Overall Grade: D
MPAA Rating: Rated R for horror violence and terror throughout, and for language
Cast: Christina Hendricks, Martin Henderson, Bailee Madison, Lewis Pullman
Directed by: Johannes Roberts
Distributed by: Aviron Pictures
Running Time: 85 minutes