By Guru Ramanathan, Staff Writer
Johannes Roberts’ unnecessary horror sequel “The Strangers: Prey at Night” features Kim Wilde’s “Kids in America,” visuals straight out of a John Carpenter horror movie, and inexplicable plotting all within the opening five minutes. The film quickly establishes the type of horror flick the audience has to sit through for the next eighty: a ludicrous story driven by conveniences and 80s nostalgia that spends too much time paying homage without providing something new and setting up scares to ever really enforce them.
The sequel follows a family of four who travel to a mobile trailer park to spend a weekend with relatives before one of the kids (Bailee Madison) is sent to boarding school. The park is mysteriously deserted and soon the family is hunted down by the psychopathic Strangers over the course of the night.
In its attempt to capitalize on 80s nostalgia, “Prey at Night” insults the slasher genre instead by churning out a boring and frustrating horror film. It uses some of the best visual and musical elements from the 80s, deliberately taking from Carpenter’s horror films like “Halloween,” “The Thing,” and “The Fog;” and also has some of the worst stock horror aspects like the Strangers walking egregiously slow when chasing a main character and magically catching up. Or, any time a character obtains something useful (i.e. phone, vehicle, weapon) they either lose it very quickly or the Strangers sneak up on them. The Strangers themselves conveniently pop into whatever location the protagonists are in as if they have thousands of cameras set up all over the trailer park.
Although there are some effective shots and one particular sequence nearby a pool that was actually well executed, “Prey at Night” mostly comes across as a straight-to-DVD slasher thriller. It fails to make any connection to the 2008 Liv Tyler-starrer, essentially using the brand name for the sake of getting a decent size audience for its opening weekend. Christina Hendricks and Martin Henderson amp up the production value for as long as they are in the film, making it somewhat watchable up to that point.
It is hard to simply treat “Prey at Night” as a campy horror film because the script focuses on the least interesting characters and the baffling character decisions completely remove any stakes the film has. The titular psychopaths are treated like super humans, sustaining insane amounts of damage to constantly drag out the run time, but it diminishes the seriousness of the film instead. Despite being at a mercifully short eighty-five minutes, “Prey at Night” is unable to stay interesting beyond the first act.
The unintentional humor is probably the film’s best quality, but not totally worth New York ticket prices. Even for die hard horror fans “Prey at Night” is not a worthy film of the genre.