The Strangers: Prey At Night (2018)

Though idiosyncratic in ’80’s score & decent characterization, TS:PAN is a cliché-riddled mess *far* less bold and original than its predecessor – bludgeoned by a weak cast & script that once again fails to capitalize on its strong premise. 4/10.

Plot Synopsis: Mike and his wife Cindy take their son and daughter on a road trip that becomes their worst nightmare. The family members soon find themselves in a desperate fight for survival when they arrive at a secluded mobile home park that’s mysteriously deserted — until three masked psychopaths show up to satisfy their thirst for blood.

*Possible Spoilers Ahead*


Dollface, Pin-Up Girl, The Man In The Mask

10 Years Later, Bryan Bertino’s Bold & Nihilistic 2008 Original Finally Has A Sequel

Photo Courtesy Of: Aviron Pictures

‘Why Are You Doing This?’ ‘Because You Were Home.’ Bryan Bertino’s 2008 bold and anarchic original ‘The Strangers’ was a breath of fresh air for the slasher genre – a vile cat-and-mouse game full of nihilistic gloom, American Christian-neighbor discourse, & unpredictability in plot structure that birthed (despite a laundry list of problems) climactic home-invasion thrills in the suburbs of middle-America. The film grew a cult following that craved, begged, & demanded a continuation to the story of Dollface, Pin-Up Girl, and The Man In The Mask. 10 years later, they finally got one – but, somehow, it still wasn’t time enough to make a decent sequel. Prey At Night misunderstands the essence and fear of its predecessor on a foundational level, inexorably mangling the franchise’s name worse than its victims. Though idiosyncratic in ’80’s score with a few genuine scares and decent characterization in final girl, TS: PAN is a cliché-riddled mess of film that’s *far* less bold and original than its predecessor – bludgeoned by a weak cast & script that once again fails to capitalize on the franchise’s brilliant premise.

A Strong Opening & Few Genuine Scares

Photo Courtesy Of: Aviron Pictures

While the film as a whole may be meek and a step back for the franchise, there are some glimmers of brilliance and genuine tension/scares. First, it’s a treat to see a franchise reignite itself 10+ years later. The Strangers is respectable in that regard, not bludgeoning itself as much as its victims in the form of 15-sequels like many of its genre-kin franchises – igniting hype simply through contrast and bringing it back. Some of TS: PAN’s horror sequences are quite good too – like the ‘Kids Of America’ opening that stands as the best scare of the film and a strong establishing scene, driver’s seat kill, car-into-trailer jump scare, jack-in-the-box, pool battle, and (of course) that cliffhanger ending. As pure slasher fluff, it will likely satisfy genre diehards or fans of the franchise just craving another Dollface or Man In The Mask-massacre. Even for more discerning horror junkies and cinephiles though, it does at least attempt characterization too. As a film review site, we must appreciate the fact that Prey At Night at least tries to characterize and develop its storyline – a veritable feat in the bright-and-fast burning slasher genre ~wholly deprived of its presence.

A Respectable Canvas Of Attempted-Characterization & Development Against Genre

Photo Courtesy Of: Aviron Pictures

This is one of the hallmarks that made the original so fresh, carried over here so, despite the fact that the cast is far too weak to support it, the screenwriters tried to craft an overarching film instead of solely relying on cheap jump scares. We see a middle-bread white suburban American family reflective of many modernized themes like social media and distancing from parental figures having a tougher time in this new day-and-age raising kids, torn apart by events based-on-a-true-story too gruesome to recount. How do you, as a teen or child, recover from watching your parents murdered by masked psychopaths feet away from you? This developmental arc and respectability in characterization is best reflected in TS: PAN’s final girl: Kinsey – a wild surprise character I hated at the beginning for being too overdramatic and angsty, as well as disrespectful to parents non-strict enough to smoke a blunt with their child when most parents and mine would’ve reigned hellfire down on me for such acts. By film’s end, she stabilizes into a repentive, relatable, (quite-literally) fiery, diverse, and rootable final girl that pushes the final act into passability-range and manages to take down The Strangers. Or does she?

The Final Girl x Soundtrack

A Nice Surprise In Kinsey & Fantastic Soundtrack That Screams ’80’s Stylism

Photo Courtesy Of: Aviron Pictures

The Soundtrack of TS: PAN is probably the film’s greatest selling point besides its final girl. Paralleling some nice cinematography in parts like the walking-away-from-the-fire symbolic shot I love above, Prey At Night boasts a fantastic soundtrack that just screams the ’80’s. Electronic ballads, glam-rock, synthpop, new wave, and insouciant nostalgia from the Golden Age Of Slasher Films assaults our senses and serves as a clever satirization of the brutalized violence we see to make a larger point about the devolving morality and depravity of the ‘Youth Of America’ The Strangers represent in nihilistic thrill-seeking as the film’s first song choice. The film’s central theme is magnificent – in clear reference/homage to John Carpenter’s original & groundbreaking Halloween score: dark, ominous piano melodies and cascading symphonics. Sadly though, nearly all of these positives are wasted in a cliché-riddled mess of a film – with a mountain of flaws.

The Flaws

A Boring/Unoriginal Trailer Setting, Juvenile Humour, & Cliché-Riddled Mess Of A Script

Photo Courtesy Of: Aviron Pictures

The setting of TS: PAN is horrible. Perhaps aiming to reflect American demographics again by moving from suburbia to trailer parks, its cuteness wears off in what is an ugly, potential-less, unoriginal backdrop that’s like Psycho meets Friday The 13th in all the wrong ways. There is cringey/juvenile humour galore, like the film’s inexplicable obsession with ‘queefs’, that insult the name of The Strangers and could not be farther off from a slasher of horror film in-general tonally. I wish they would’ve had even remote reference to the original’s events or revelation of what happened to The Strangers since then – or any remote development or explanation of who the serial trio is and what turned them to such ghastly macabre in the first place. PAN also misunderstands serial killers as a concept, breaking canon and the precise methodical procedure they ~always carry out (starting with ‘Is Tamara home?’ here they forgot out of likely-negligence in the opening kill scene, but comes back later inconsistently). The cast of the film is absolutely awful – one of the worst casts for a horror movie I’ve ever witnessed in my entire filmic tenure. The actors and actresses reek of amateruism, shakiness, and the inability to even deliver one line convincingly – best exemplified by their laughably-unconvincing/meek reaction to the sight of their uncle and aunt’s mangled corpses deprived of eyes or guts by The Strangers, a sight that would mess up anyone on the planet witnessing first hand.

One Of The Weakest Cast Ensembles I’ve Ever Witnessed, & A Wasted Shyamalan-ic Ending

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The family is genetically-impossible too – how do a white brunette husband and freckled redhead have a black-haired, Asian-looking daughter? They are convincingly-related though in their familial embrace of the most basic clichés of the entire horror genre – my favorites being to split up immediately after witnessing the sadistic carnage and mangled corpses of their extended family right before their eyes, go back to the scene of the crime moments after explanation (did they.. not believe them or something?), and the literal use of the singular most clichéd line in horror and slasher history: ‘I’ll be right back.’ The idea that a whitebread middle-America family and shrieking teenage girl could take down The Strangers – a serial-killing trio with over 10 years of experience under their belts from the events of the first film – is a travesty and insult of the highest order, despite the fact that Kinsey is a decent final girl who even gets a Shyamalan-ic cliffhanger/twist ending in the traumatized hospital final scene deserving of a better film.


‘Why Are You Doing This?’ ‘Why Not?’

A Cliché-Riddled, Weakly-Acted, Poorly-Conceptualized Mess of A Film That Misunderstands & Wastes Its Nihilistic Premise

Photo Courtesy Of: Aviron Pictures

‘Why Are You Doing This?’ ‘Why Not?’ The Strangers: Prey At Night is a massive disappointment and step-back for the franchise inexcusably-weak having 10 years to think of the perfect sequel. Despite an occasional glimpse of brilliance like the nihilistic line above, a fantastic ’80’s soundtrack, and decent characterization especially reflective in the film’s final girl Kinsey, PAN fails to understand The Strangers on a foundational level. The setting is unoriginal and boring, juvenile humour tonally-jarring, script riddled with clichés, and cast laughable – feeling like they were taken off the streets or actively-searched for in hopes of securing people who cannot deliver a convincing line in the midst of seeing their extended family slaughtered right before their very eyes. Maybe in another 10 years, they’ll finally be able to get it right. Tamara’s definitely not home here; Please leave a message.

Official CLC Score: 4/10