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

The Strangers 

You’ll be double checking that your doors are triple dead-bolted after The Strangers, the finest pedigree in home invasion/stalker chillers, a film so lethally unnerving that even a few moments in the trailer alone can get people squirming. On a dusky autumn’s eve, Scott Speedman and Liv Tyler arrive at their remote cottage to get some downtime. Giving each other the cold shoulder following a spurned marriage proposal, the mood is anything but romantic, but that’s nothing compared to the nightmarish arrival of three masked intruders who terrorize them the whole night through. First time Writer Director Brian Bertino has a brutal, bleak edge to his script and knows how to stage the scenes of fright in gut churning, uncomfortable fashion. Nothing about these Strangers is ever divulged, motive nor backstory, they’re just relentless phantoms of the night who chose this poor couple simply because “they were home.” The cinematography is gorgeously auburn and amber burnished, full of rich deep shadows that could be hiding anything, and quite often are. 1970’s inspired design creeps into the detailed production design as well as the soundtrack, and all the elements contribute to an immersive atmosphere. The ending has always been a point of contention amongst people since this came out (Ebert wrote an unfair, misguidedly scathing report), and it’s understandably tough for audiences to sit through such a depressing, hopeless conclusion. But considering this is Hollywood, where every film and it’s mother has a happy ending or something numbingly predictable, it’s a nice swap to get bludgeoned out of nowhere by a complete, no fucks given conclusion that leaves no way out for anyone and an upsetting, anxious feeling in the air. I love that the director had the stones to finish off the film like that, and I love even more so that the studio let him keep it, other outfits should take note of where and when to dole out creative control at the expense of making a memorable, lasting experience. A no frills nightmare that sends you straight to anxiety-ville. Keep those lights on when you turn in tonight and don’t answer the door if someone knocks. Don’t even move or breathe.