Cinematic Releases: Hack, Slash, Repeat: The Strangers: Prey at Night

We've waited ten years. But The Strangers are back for the kill. Can it live up to the first? Or is it dead on arrival?

If you were to imagine a world in which a part two could actually maintain some excellence, I'd typically tell you that you're crazy. Luckily for horror hounds and fans of slashers, The Strangers have returned to greatness. They're just as creepy and maniacal as they were in 2008......but even more twisted. I was personally terrified. 

By now we all know that good sequels are hard to come by, especially when it comes to the horror genre. For decades, continuations and retreads have failed to live up to their predecessors by strangling the life out of decent franchises and legendary on screen killers. This week, The Strangers: Prey at Night comes along to convince us that sometimes a part two can be equally as frightening and sometimes mildly better than its origin. Using a retro vibe that's reliant on a synth based John Carpenter-esque score and consistent usage of Air Supply's Making Love Out of Nothing At All, Prey at Night ups the savagery in a part two that outdoes the 2008 film in almost every single way.

These colors are so super retro vibe. You dig?

Instead of repeating the claustrophobic setting of the original, Prey at Night spends the majority of its mayhem induced time frame in a mobile home park that's shut down for the season. As a throwback to numerous vintage horror flicks, director Johannes Roberts pays tribute to The Hills Have Eyes, Halloween, The Town That Dreaded Sundown, Friday the 13th, and numerous others while remaining stylistically fresh and relevant. His use of fog and lighting here is quite impressive while he terrorizes a new set of victims in a brand new location. Also of note is the impeccable use of old school framing and camera work. Other than a few shoddy edits, Prey at Night looks and sounds like it could be from an earlier era, which absolutely pays tribute to classic horror directors like Carpenter, Craven, and more. 

Not relying on the past, Roberts refreshes the brand by creating a visceral game of cat and mouse that relies on freshly sliced human pain that's infused by realistic performances all around. Actress Bailee Madison definitely knows how to carry herself as a scream queen. Having cut her teeth on the 2010 feature Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, she slips right back into the genre with ease, once again proving that a feminine touch is the best way to go with these types of films. While Christina Hendricks leaves her mark on the film with support from Martin Henderson, both actors are put to little use. Their characters could have been played by anyone. Actor Lewis Pullman plays the lead's supportive brother, pulling his own weight, creating a believable athletic teen with a killer golf swing. 

Bro. You made me screw up my makeup. 

For mega-fans of '80s hack and slash, The Strangers: Prey at Night is a visceral return to form for a genre that's been getting somewhat sluggish lately. Unlike so many modern low budget, straight to video entries, this brings the vintage horror chase scenario back to theaters without being too repetitive. Roberts has been three for three in the past couple years. The Other Side of the Door, 47 Meters Down, and now Prey at Night have all been successful directorial gigs for him. Hopefully, he keeps it up. 

Other than a conclusion that feels forced, this is the movie we've been waiting for.