Courtesy of Aviron Pictures
There’s nothing quite like a shared experience inside a dark movie theater watching a horror film with a crowd of folks that are as invested in the characters as you are. That’s the vibe of “The Strangers: Prey at Night” a sequel to the 2008 slasher flick that saw a couple (Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman) being tormented by a trio of deranged killers in porcelain doll masks and a burlap sack. While it may have taken 10 years to spawn the sequel - (leaving plenty of time for four dozen “Paranormal Activity” films) - the premise is still spooky enough to leave you on the edge.
The game is still the same, which is likely what ultimately prevents the movie from breaking out, but the thrills are right in check. Stepping up to the plate as pigs being sent to slaughter is a family (whose last name is undisclosed) heading to a trailer park village for one evening while, they prep their uncontrollable Ramones wearing t-shirt daughter (Bailee Madison) for boarding school. Once they arrive in Cabin 47 - (is that a nod to director Johannes Roberts last film the shark thriller “47 Meters Down?) - things start to fall in routine. Except a strange girl knocks asking “Is Tamera home?” - that’s weird. But apparently not strange enough for anyone to keep their cell phones handy.
These early scenes do drag, almost painstakingly, but it’s only about ten or fifteen minutes until the action kicks into gear (bless Roberts for keeping this thing under 90 minutes). Sure, it’s the same cattle-prod and puppet gore horror fans have been desensitized for decades, but the killers are what makes “The Strangers” such a thrill. In the original film, when asked their motive they simply say “you were home.” That might be the scariest thing any horror movie could conjure, their motive is they don’t have one.
The film taunts that it’s “based on true events,” with some dramatization I’m sure, yet the slasher film crafts an interesting mix of 80s throwback, complete with a stylized old-fashion soundtrack too good to spoil and a climatic pool sequence showdown that is everything you want it to be. Although, I always wondered what would happen if when people scream “leave us alone,” how funny it would be if the killers actually just packed up their things and left, and the movie just ended.
In horror movie terms, that might be the only idea we haven’t seen played out on screen.