Fresh on Blu-ray: ‘THE STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT’ – an unwelcome guest to series

James Cole Clay// Film Critic

THE STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT

Rated R, 85 minutes
Director: Johannes Roberts
Starring: Bailee Madison, Christina Hendricks, Martin Henderson, Lewis Pullman

Horror sequels are fine. Some are good. Most are disappointing. But they are there just for fun.

2008’s THE STRANGERS is certainly not an enjoyable home invasion film; it’s quite frightening and not one you’d want to watch home alone late at night. THE STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT is devoid of any authenticity that the original held, culling a dried up bone of John Carpenter-inspired music that is frankly been done to death at this point. It’s a gross offense that horror fans will be able to sniff out faster than Michael Myers can snatch up a promiscuous teenager.

PREY AT NIGHT takes a family driven approach, but succumbs to stupidity and surface level traits for every character. Kinsey (Bailee Madison) is a “troubled” girl who is on a road trip with her parents Cindy and Mike (Christina Hendricks and Martin Henderson) and her older brother Luke (Lewis Pullman). The groan-inducing development of this family hits a high note with Kinsey’s Ramones tee and edgy smoking habit. This isn’t really the fault of the actors — just a director, or production team looking to cut corners. Anyways, the family gets to a secluded trailer park, a weirdo knocks on the door and asks, “Is Tamara home?,” and then three masked strangers come to murder the family.

THE STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT (Photo Courtesy of Universal Pictures)

There’s not much else to the narrative that flows like a jackhammer trying to cross the street. None of the decisions made by anybody make sense, or allow the plot to carry momentum. It’s a bummer because Hendricks deserves better, and has done better in other roles, while Henderson is super likable as the “cool dad.” Same goes for Madison, who crushed it a decade ago in 2009’s BROTHERS acting alongside Jake Gyllenhaal. There just should have been a better captain steering this careening ship. Good actors, but terrible execution (in more ways than one.)

Johannes Roberts (47 METERS DOWN) takes too many liberties with his own work, just for the sake of making his film look cool. It’s apparent he’s commandeered a few plays from Nicolas Winding Refn’s school of production design (the director of DRIVE). It’s a frustrating experience when you have a film such as PREY AT NIGHT that’s all dressed up, with nowhere to go.

Throughout there’s a liberal use of melodramatic ’80s ballads such as “Total Eclipse of the Heart” that are inappropriately used and distract from the murdering happening on-screen. If Roberts could have shown some restraint, his film would have had more success. This could have been a case where the studio took over and Roberts is just looking to put any stamp of authorship on his work. Either way…

STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT has the ingredients to be a fun sequel, but runs off a cliff quick, fast and in a hurry. There hasn’t been one mention of the action and tension because there is none; just a beautiful looking mess that will undoubtedly slip from the consciousness of pop culture.

Grade: C-

Special Features: 

  • ALTERNATE ENDING: Slight Variation 
  • “Prep For Night” Music Video-Director’s Cut: Where we get see how the strangers get dressed up! Wow
  • A Look Inside THE STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT: Spoiler Alert: Its completely empty
  • Family Fights Back: A look inside the wafer-thin character’s motivations.
  • The Music of THE STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT: A two minute feature where Johannes Roberts openly talks about how he ripped off John Carpenter movies.

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