Directed by: Johannes Roberts
Cast: Christina Hendricks, Martin Henderson, Bailee Madison, Lewis Pullman
Written by Tom Sheffield
10 years ago ‘The Strangers’ hit cinemas and made just about everyone double check their locks when they got home afterwards. The film saw three masked strangers terrorize Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman in an isolated vacation home they were staying in and made everyone scared to answer their door at night.
“Why are you doing this to us?”
“Because you were home…”
Even just typing that line sends chills down my spine and gives me flashbacks of how truly tense and brilliant the first film was.. Sadly, this sequel was completely devoid of any of the brilliant qualities of its predecessor.
Arriving 10 years after the first film, this sequel had the potential to really be something special had some real effort been made to be so. Instead, the film feels like it’s taken a leap back 30 years and sticks to the traditional traits of a classic 80’s horror film, making it feel far too predictable and familiar. Thankfully, the film takes some of the better qualities from it’s 80’s inspirations and makes them work in its favor.
‘Prey at Night’ focuses on Cindy (Christina Hendricks), Mike (Martin Hendseron), and their two teenagers, Kinsey (Bailee Madison) and Luke (Lewis Pullman). Kinsey is the rebel child (the Ramones t-shirt is a dead give away) and like all rebellious teenagers, 90% of of her conversations with her parents are arguments. The family move into a seemingly empty trailer park owned by a relative, but they aren’t in their temporary home for more than 5 minutes before their night becomes one they’ll have to fight to survive.
The film spends it’s first act giving us an insight into this typical family, and obviously trying to get us to form some sort of connection with them before the shit hits the fan later on. Because most of time is spent focusing on a sulky teenager I felt like I didn’t really care who ended up dying. Not having the slightest bit of care for the characters diminishes any sense tension for me, and it’s a shame because that’s what made the first one so memorable.
The Strangers themselves are still as creepy as I remembered, but as the film progresses it feels like the film falls into ‘silly slasher’ territory and they lost that essence of creepiness. Ryan Samul did an incredible job with the cinematography on this film and both he and Roberts fully utilised the open space of the trailer park during some of the more intense scenes, but also made me feel very claustrophobic during the scenes in trailers. There’s one scene around a pool that I feel was incredibly well shot and it really felt like it had come straight out of an 80’s slasher flick. The Stranger’s actions may have left me scratching my head, but their scenes were incredibly well shot and because of this their presence on-screen was still somewhat fear inducing.
Obviously riding the 80’s vibe it was aiming for, ‘Prey at Night’s’ soundtrack is exclusively made up of 80’s tunes, and the aforementioned pool scene has an 80’s track playing as neon lights illuminate an axe wielding murderer in a mask – it’s an incredibly well shot homage to the slashers it takes inspirations from. Johannes Roberts killer direction (see what I did there) is thankfully one of the few admirable qualities of this film.
Whilst not bringing anything new to the table, ‘Prey at Night’ did just about manage to keep my attention during its short 85 minute runtime. Despite (an as expected) slow start, once the family come face to face with the titular characters the film’s pace picks up, but each character’s questionable actions and boring dialogue really hinder this sequel. Slasher fans will find more to like in this sequel than I have, especially within the plot itself. However, I find myself admiring the technical aspects of this film far more than anything else it had to offer.
If you’re a fan of the first I would definitely still recommend giving ‘Prey at Night’ a watch, and as previously mentioned, the slasher fans amongst you will likely find this an enjoyable 85 minutes.