The Strangers Prey at Night movie review: Makes Vikram Bhatt’s horror movies look like classics
The Strangers Prey at Night movie review: This horror sequel is a throwback to the old-fashioned thrillers of the 1980s, but without the wit, scares or humour to warrant a recommendation.
The Strangers: Prey at Night
Director - Johannes Roberts
Cast - Christina Hendricks, Martin Henderson, Bailee Madison
Rating - 2/5
It’s easy to make fun of our brand of horror cinema. In fact, even calling it ‘our brand’ is slightly embarrassing, as anyone who has ever been brave enough to sit through a Vikram Bhatt production would confirm. But the next time you sit and giggle at Raaz XVII or whatever, remind yourself that while Indian horror movies are the pits, Hollywood - at least mainstream Hollywood, anyway - isn’t faring much better. While we’re still recycling plots that would seem dated even in the 1960s, Hollywood has realised that it doesn’t take much effort to make money with horror. Imagine how Aamir Khan must have felt the moment it dawned on him that he could print money just by letting the Chinese watch his movies. That’s the motivation behind most horror you watch these days.
The problems with both kinds of horror movies can be safely traced to one basic flaw in humanity: laziness. The second we learn that certain actions will be appreciated/reliably successful/non-controversial, we settle in comfortably, having decided that risking change would be putting a stop to a good thing. In India, the Bhatts have duped millions into spending their hard earned cash into watching screeching women fight over generic-looking men with the occasional witch thrown in. In Hollywood, innocent families are ritualistically preyed upon by sinister forces while loud noises jolt you awake from your slumber.
This is precisely what happens in The Strangers: Prey at Night. It’s up for debate whether or not this film is a knowing takedown of everything we’ve grown to love and loathe about these films, but chances are, it’s just another pandering effort to con easily excitable teenagers out of their monthly allowances.
It comes a full decade after the first Strangers movie - bet you’d forgotten that it existed - and essentially plays like a soft reboot, shedding all but the central conceit - three masked deviants terrorise a harmless family until everyone is either dead or dying or both. The first movie was, if I remember correctly, a pleasant enough experience - nothing that would make you place an immediate call to loved ones instructing them to watch it ASAP, but not nearly as forgettable as some of the other so-called ‘scary’ movies that we get, usually around this time of the year.
The Strangers: Prey at Night is a weird movie, in that it’s almost impossible to find positive things to say about it. Not that it’s poorly made - it’s not, in fact, it’s should be quite effective for certain audiences - but it’s just so drool-inducingly boring, so devoid of genuine tension and thrills, that it would be almost unethical to recommend it.
There is only so much stalking and killing one person can reasonably be expected to sit through, and even then, it’s only natural to want a bit of variety in the manner in which the shrieking victims are murdered. So when it hits you - I’d say it happens around 15 minutes in - that The Strangers: Prey at Night is the sort of movie that does what it says on the tin, and nothing more, that’s when the restlessness begins to set in.
What we have here is partly a home-invasion thriller crossed with a slasher movie - and at the risk of sounding repetitive, it’s very likely that you’ve seen better examples of both. We’ve arrived at a point that the only time a horror movie can work is when the filmmakers attempt to subvert the tropes of the genre and provide an emotional reaction that you wouldn’t necessarily have anticipated.
The two best horror films of the last couple of years are a great example of how this can be done. Both It Follows and Get Out share several similarities to The Strangers: Prey at Night - innocent characters being preyed upon by forces of evil, a tightly constructed plot that serves as a throwback to ‘80s horror, and memorable villains. However, here’s the thing: While both It Follows and Get Out would work just as well among an unassuming teenage audience that’s just in it for the cheap thrills, they’d arguably work even better in a film studies classroom full of pseudo-intellectual hipsters who think John Carpenter is a hack.
The Strangers: Prey at Night is neither here nor there - too familiar to be scary for seasoned horror fans and too inconsequential to convert the agnostics. But before you stomp away all disappointed, let’s strike a deal. If I suggest a good enough alternative, you promise to stop funding more movies such as this? Agreed? So go check out the Uruguayan film called The Silent House.
Watch the Strangers: Prey at Night trailer here