Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Strangers: Prey at Night (2018)

* spoilers *

Mike and Cindy visit family at a mobile home park with their teenage kids Luke and Kinsey. Once they arrive, everyone has gone on vacation, leaving the park empty. The aunt and uncle leave a note that they will be late and they think nothing of it. A strange woman knocks on their door multiple times asking for Tamara. Again, they ignore it and family drama ensues until Luke and Kinsey find their aunt and uncle's brutally murdered bodies. The family is being stalked by a trio of masked strangers who only want murder and mayhem.

I loved The Strangers and I would place it near the top of the home invasion subgenre. Going into this film, I had high expectations that weren't met. The tone and style are completely different. The first one felt real and incredibly invasive in quiet moments. This one is all neon colors, 80's music, dumb characters, and stretched logic. The neon colors and 80's music aren't necessarily bad. I like the aesthetic, but there was nothing to tie it to the film. It felt like a random decision and I was so upset that the song I Think We're Alone Now, which was so perfectly eerie in the trailer, was never actually played in the film. I do appreciate that they included real 80's hits and not generic, unknown ones. The songs also give a contrasting cheery nature to scenes of murder, which I always love.

The family is in a tense place at the beginning of the film due to Kinsey's rebellious behavior landing her in boarding school. She decides to act pouty and childish while everyone else struggles to put on a brave face. Once things go sideways, the family's reactions are ridiculous even for run of the mill people. Cindy, played by Christina Hendricks, literally does nothing to defend herself when Dollface attacked her with a knife. There is also a pretty visually stunning fight in a pool between the Man in the Mask and Luke that I enjoyed until Luke thought it was a great idea to turn his back and leave the pool at a glacial pace while his opponent still had a knife. Lots of hiding places are poorly chosen and they nonsensically shout for each other throughout the film even when they should stay silent and hiding. I'm used to horror movie logic and this was frustrating to watch.

The villains seemed much different. In the previous film, they stayed in the background and toyed with their victims in subtle ways up until the end. In this one, they are much more in your face. Dollface takes a more major role which was nice to see. The Man in the Mask loves to drag his axe along the floor before attacking, sacrificing secrecy for style and induction of fear. Their use of the truck surprised me and made for some good scares. It shows a level of cockiness that wasn't there in the first film and they do end up paying for it. I liked that they changed up the formula and I didn't know where it was going. I was disappointed that Pin-Up Girl did practically nothing except one jumpscare. The biggest flaw of the film is how they seemed to psychically know where every member of the family was in this huge mobile home park. This concept works for a small setting like the first film, but not on such a huge scale unless there were more people.

The Strangers: Prey at Night is largely a disappointment for me because of the expectations set by the first film. Again, it's open for a sequel, but I'm not interested in Michael Meyers-esque indestructable villains. It doesn't fit with this story. The charm of the first movie was largely due to the fact that it felt realistic and the crimes were committed by people for essentially no reason. This film is style over substance and enters into a type of slasher that is tired and unoriginal. I might give the next one a try if it gets made, but this sequel fell flat for me.

My rating: 2/5 fishmuffins

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