Combustible Celluloid
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With: Christina Hendricks, Bailee Madison, Martin Henderson, Emma Bellomy, Lewis Pullman, Lea Enslin, Damian Maffei, Leah Roberts, Preston Sadleir
Written by: Ben Ketai, Bryan Bertino
Directed by: Johannes Roberts
MPAA Rating: R for horror violence and terror throughout, and for language
Running Time: 85
Date: 03/09/2018

The Strangers: Prey at Night (2018)

1 Star (out of 4)

Masking for Trouble

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This ten-years-later sequel to one of the staples of the "home invasion" horror subgenre is aggravatingly typical, with baffling lapses in logic, dumb characters, and annoying, all-powerful killers.

In The Strangers: Prey at Night, troublemaking teen Kinsey (Bailee Madison) is being shipped off to a boarding school by her exasperated, but loving parents, Cindy (Christina Hendricks) and Mike (Martin Henderson). Kinsey's older brother Luke (Lewis Pullman) joins them for a road trip to the school, to see Kinsey off.

They arrive at a mobile home park to spend the night, but just as they are about to settle in, they receive a visit from a strange young woman. Then, Kinsey and Luke discover an open trailer and find two dead bodies inside. Realizing that all their phones have been disabled, they try to escape, but eerie masked killers are on the attack. As the bodies begin to fall, Kinsey and Luke try to fight back, but the "strangers" are everywhere...

The original The Strangers (2008) was not good, and not well-received by either critics or viewers, but it still made a lot of money. Thus, the sequel, The Strangers: Prey at Night, is completely unnecessary other than as an investment. Director Johannes Roberts (of The Other Side of the Door and 47 Meters Down, both of which I liked), starts promisingly, with a 1980s-style title card, and a creepy, 1980s-style synthesizer score, as well as some ironically-chosen 1980s pop songs. He even includes a De Palma-like split screen shot.

But the movie disintegrates quickly from there. It includes predicable jump-scares and old devices like the lone, creaking swing on the swing set. The characters are not very smart, and their dialogue never really rings true. Unbelievably, all four of them leave their trailer without taking their phones.

They are always poking around where they shouldn't be, facing the wrong direction, or running from danger in plain sight. The killers, on the other hand, are inhumanly imperturbable, with nary a drop of adrenaline affecting their actions. They are also able, supernaturally, to be anywhere, at any time, and to know where their victims are at all times. There's no suspense and no horror. It's all just crushingly dull.

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