What caught my attention immediately was that much like its predecessor, The Strangers: Prey at Night was based on true events. After learning this and watching the trailer, that statement didn’t feel right, so I did a little digging and found out that this story happened to film’s writer Bryan Bertino. Quite shocking, until you find out that the “true” in the true events is only two scenes long and the rest has been glamourized by imagination. Clearly, the true events marketing ploy is at work here to mislead audiences into a false sense of dread and even if we sent that aside, The Strangers: Prey at Night is quite the hollow film.
At first, I couldn’t identify what kind of horror film I was watching, but after studying the aesthetic choices of the film, I came to realize. The film very subtly sneaks in the popular film trend of 80’s nostalgia from the use of some classic 80’s music to the teenage girl wearing a Ramones t-shirt to even having a similar title card font to Stranger Things. So, if we’re going with all these pieces of information, is this film a slasher? If so, I can see why you would get some enjoyment out of this because the classic slasher psyche is not caring about character development and getting straight to the kills.
Furthermore, the 80’s music is used in a way that is satisfactory and harks back to the slasher period of horror films. There are a few scenes where one of the killers is in a truck and you first see the headlight and ever so quietly the harmonious music kicks in and it gets louder and louder at the threat approaches. It seems familiar but the creativity of the sound design as it very slowly gets louder is quite pleasing and well-orchestrated.
But occasionally, just when your settling into something creative, something that has been done hundreds of times happens and it snaps you out of that trance of enjoyment. the film involvement of the reveal scare is uninspired, this is done to reveal a killer or the fake scare before the real one, however using both ruins any form of identity, I don’t know if the film is going the modern horror route or a John Carpenter-esque route, its so unclear of its intentions that when the scares finally hit, they don’t pack enough punch to make us jump out of our seats.
One major question I have with Prey at Night is what’s with the insane amount of wide slide zooms? Every so often in Prey at Night you get some swift slide zooms that often show one of the killers stalking the victim as build up. The problem with this is you’re revealing too much with a wide angle. we know too much about the surrounding, so it eliminates all sense of mystery to where the killer is going to pop out from and for a film that uses killers that stalk their victims, this is ridiculous. Even the close-ups aren’t at all impressive because some of them aren’t even focused sharply enough. The focus puller of Prey at Night needs a few more lessons.
I’ve talked about the killers a lot in this review but there’s so much I can say about them I stop at this point. The most infuriating thing about the killers is that they are seemingly unmotivated. I get that the film is titled The Strangers: Prey at Night and that the unanswered question of why they’re targeting this family stays true to the title, but I don’t buy it for a second. These killers go to such extreme lengths to isolate the family and kill them off and the film expects me to just accept that? Not in a million years. They have no personality and feel bland. Believe it or not, silent killers like Michael Myers and Jason Vorhees have personalities and have real motivations and struggles that make them kill, the three masked killers in this film are the blandest of the bland which may have worked in the 2008 predecessor. But now horror has moved on since then, this doesn’t work anymore.
We even know very little about the family except they’re not in the best of situations at the start of the film. how are we expected to be emotionally invested in these characters when you spend so little time to tell us who they are and what makes them unique.
Horror is one of, if not, the most creative genres in any form of entertainment media. In the past year we’ve seen a lot of diamond horror films that have made their mark upon cinema, but to get to those diamonds we must shovel through a lot of dirt, but even dirt has its purpose. If you’re a true horror fan, you’ll get cravings, you live of scares, you need to be scared. The Strangers: Prey at Night is a craving filler film for the most desperate of times when you’ve been without horror for ages. You know what your watching is mindless and dull but at least you’re getting your fill.
Final Result: 3/10 – Poor
(except for hardcore horror fans)
Have you seen The Strangers: Prey at Night? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
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