Tag Archives: Bailee Madison

The Strangers: Prey At Night

2006’s The Strangers is one of my favourite horror films, so when I found out there was a sequel (over ten years later, no less) I kind of hovered around it apprehensively a while before taking the dive. It’s actually a solid gem, and in some ways better than the first film although quite different in style and tone. The first saw on-the-rocks couple Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman stalked at their remote cabin, it was hushed, shadowy, it employed silence, creaky doors, an eerie record turntable and other low key elements to terrify and create atmosphere, it was quite sombre and muted. The Strangers: Prey At Night couldn’t be louder and prouder, dipped in the newly popular 80’s synth aesthetic, gory as all hell, celebratory in its bloody, neon, frenzied, unabashed spectacle and I love the direction they took with it. There’s an entire family this time, mom and dad (Martin Henderson and Christina Hendricks) and bro & sis (Lewis Pullman and Bailee Madison) on a family vacation at a suspiciously deserted mobile home resort. The trip is meant to restore bonds and heal tension within their family unit, but such is not in the cards, as we soon see the three unmistakable, spooky serial killers from the first film descend on their location, stalk, torment and try to kill them. The casting is great here, Henderson I haven’t seen in a while and has horror roots from The Ring, I’ve always enjoyed his work. Hendricks is on a decade long hot streak and does a fine job. My favourite was Bailee Madison as the troubled teenage daughter though, she has excellent range and goes from high strung and vulnerable to killer instinct survivalist with emotional clarity and vicious resilience. The filmmakers obviously got on-board this 80’s nostalgia train and I just love how it’s coming back, there’s a beautiful electronic score and some choice soundtrack picks including Kids In America, Night Moves, Cambodia and a thundering climactic riff on Total Eclipse Of The Heart set your one of the most hectic, elaborate and excitingly stages finales anyone could dream up. If you’ve seen The Strangers you’ll remember how bleak, smothered in darkness, nihilistic and bitter that one was in spirit, and the feeling the ending leaves you with. Prey At Night strives to be the antithesis to that in terms of tone, feeling and outcome. There’s a striking set piece at the resort’s pool lit by fluorescent palm trees that is showcase horror and one of my favourite sequences in the genre of late. If the first film was the oppressive witching hour of night, this is the first neon rays of dawn, a spectacularly violent, cathartic, rip-snortin confrontation between three despicable sickos and one tough cookie teen that just won’t let them walk all over her. Surpasses the original in my book, and one of the best horror films I’ve seen in quite sometime.

-Nate Hill

Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark

Although not particularly scary or super memorable, Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark is an atmospheric gothic fright flick with distinct production design and some really neat visuals. Based on a 1973 film of the same name, Guillermo Del Toro was apparently a big fan and adapted it with a new screenplay, and while I can’t help thinking what could have been if he took up director’s duties as well, the result is still pretty good. Guy Pearce plays an architect who moves into a giant, baroque old mansion in the sticks with his introverted daughter (Bailee Madison) and interior designer girlfriend (Katie Holmes). The plan is to fix the place up, but Madison does a bit too much wandering around and discovers they aren’t alone, and the manor is also home to a horde of tiny, creepy demon thingies with glowing eyes, skeletal limbs and they’ve activated stealth mode. They live in dark corners, shadowy closets and make weird chittering noises (Del Toro himself lent his voice to one of them) that freak the girl right out, but naturally her dad thinks she just has an overactive imagination. Pearce and Holmes are great in their roles and add class, as does Madison who is a competent young protagonist. This doesn’t exactly reinvent the horror wheel or make any kind of huge impression, but the art department really did well with the design of the old house, the visual elements are all really great and pop on the Blu Ray. It’s more of a mildly eerie children’s fairy tale than an outright horror film but it works on its terms.

-Nate Hill