Review – Johannes Roberts’ The Strangers: Prey at Night

May 2008. The Strangers hits cinemas nationwide, eventually debuting in the #3 spot and earning 2x its production budget. August 2009. Rogue Pictures confirms that a sequel is in the works…and then…nothing. All plans and updates die out and fans’ hopes are destroyed. That didn’t stop my best friend and I, though. Her mother was absolutely terrified of The Strangers, and we snuck out of the house at least half a dozen times to throw rocks at the windows and onto the roof to fool her into believing the three intruders had invaded her home. To say I was a fan of the first movie is an understatement. To this day, The Strangers perfectly captured the essence of horror and violated your psyche without tons of gore, nudity and traditional horror elements. So, that’s why I was happy but hesitant when The Strangers: Prey at Night was announced in May 2017. Was it really possible to capture the magic of the first movie again, so long after the first cast and crew came together? Original director Bryan Bertino returned to serve as executive producer and the three main villains came back for the new movie as well…but…could The Strangers: Prey at Night be great? I never made it to theaters during the movie’s March to May 2018 run, but Universal Pictures Home Entertainment were generous to provide me with an advanced Blu-ray/DVD copy in hopes of obtaining a new review as they head towards the film’s home media release on June 12, 2018. Last night, my fiance and I popped the Blu-ray in our XBox One, and here are my thoughts after viewing it in full.

Here’s the thing… The Strangers: Prey at Night should be watched with a blank slate, with the viewer forgetting everything they knew about the tone and atmosphere of its predecessor. The Strangers and The Strangers: Prey at Night are two completely different paths to shock and terror, though they do feature the same villains. And that’s OK, guys. Think about it. Halloween 2 is drastically different from Halloween 4 in that way. Jason Goes to Hell is drastically different from Jason X. There’s a huge gap in tone between The Exorcist and The Exorcist 2. Hell, even Wrong Turn has a different vibe than Wrong Turn 2. Just because the mood doesn’t match doesn’t mean there isn’t a story to tell. It’s no secret that audiences fell in love with Doll Face, Man in the Mask and Pin-Up Girl. Why should fans of the original be cheated out of a second experience because YOU don’t feel a new addition under a new director is worthy of being made. Alas, this is the attitude of horror fans as of late, and it can currently be seen during the whole Halloween (2018) trailer debacle. I know this is coming off more like movie-politics than a film review, but I want to get my point across that The Strangers: Prey at Night is a devilishly good horror flick despite not matching the subconscious allure of the original movie. And what astounds me about negative opinions in regards to the new movie is…there’s plenty of horror and scary moments to be found. Lots of blood, and even more action! Though it’s more in your face and a traditional slasher in nature, departing from the “I can’t breathe” suspense of the first film, it’s still pretty frickin’ fun.

Johannes Roberts, fresh off the success of 47 Meters Down, directed The Strangers: Prey at Night, and he gave his take on how the series should progress. Viewers tend to forget that a director is still an artist, and The Strangers: Prey at Night is his vision, his canvas to paint his interpretation on. This can mostly be seen in the colorful bright lights and backing music choices. When director Roberts, writer Ben Ketai, and the numerous producers who I literally would take up a paragraph listing, worked diligently to deliver a sequel that was worth going to theaters. Remember, so long after the original movie, The Strangers: Prey at Night could have easily gone direct-to-DVD, but this sequel had more to it than jump scares and slight nostalgic nods to the previous film. It has aggravating moments that piss you off and genuine moments that made you stand up and cheer. And that’s what’s most important – The Strangers: Prey at Night evoked an emotion from me, and from other people at well. With a lot of fire, a lot of blood, car chases, chase scenes, and surprise additions to rack up the body count, The Strangers: Prey at Night raised the level of production higher than the first film, and delivered a wild ride built on action over suspense. And, again, I’m OK with that!

The Strangers: Prey at Night stars Bailee Madison (“The Fosters,” “Good Witch”), Lewis Pullman (Battle of the Sexes), Martin Henderson (“Grey’s Anatomy,” The Ring), Christina Hendricks (Drive, “Mad Men”), Damian Maffei (Closed for the Season), Emma Bellomy and Lea Enslin. It’s hard to grade any of the villains because, minus a few lines from Doll Face and Pin-Up Girl, they were basically the best stunt doubles a film can get. They showed up, they did their part, they went home. The lead cast, though, had plenty of chemistry on camera and all of the actors are incredibly talented. The first half of the movie, Christina Hendricks was my favorite participant, but by the second half Lewis Pullman was the guy I was rooting for the most. So, my sentiments remain. The Strangers: Prey at Night is a completely different beast than The Strangers, but it’s still exciting, effective, and suspenseful in its own way. It’s better in some areas in comparison to the first film, and light on other elements when putting the two side by side. I would definitely watch The Strangers: Prey at Night again, especially during a double feature night at home. And you should serious consider buying it on June 12, 2018. Open your mind, relax, and enjoy. It’s a horror film, folks. Not the Titanic. Final Score: 8 out of 10.

Written by Michael Therkelsen

(Senior Editor)