[Review] The Strangers: Prey at Night, horror movie or horror movie?

Posted under Movies On By D14N

A late sequel to the very successful The Strangers, this second opus entitled Prey at Night is released today in theaters with a certain indifference. And with the guarantee of doing less well economically than its predecessor. Should this be seen as a symptom of the quite relative quality of the footage concerned?

In 2008, The Strangers first came out on video in France . Nice surprise success in theaters in the United States, the film, directed by Bryan Bertino, had marked fans of the genre thanks to its special atmosphere. It was about a couple in crisis, come to stay in an isolated family home, who quickly found themselves attacked by three mysterious masked assailants. A simple and effective starting point that Bertino’s staging succeeded in completely transcending by mixing the codes of the home invasion movie and the haunted house movie. A bit as if Funny Game met La Maison du Diable .

Now staged by the interesting Johannes Roberts ( The Door, 47 meters down ), Prey at Night therefore takes more or less the elements established by its predecessor, this time replacing the figure of the failing couple by a dysfunctional family. . And by no longer limiting the action behind closed doors but by expanding it to an entire neighborhood. The idea is not here, from the start, to create something fundamentally new like the classics of the genre ( Aliens, The Devil’s Reject ,…). But good to take a formula that had worked in the past and try to extract a successful simulacrum.

Ghost Train
Once the family arrives in the mobile home which they use as their home for the night, someone knocks on their door. On the steps, a young girl, her face plunged in darkness, asks the mother who has just opened the door for her: “ Is Tamarra there? “. What the woman, who does not seem to understand, replies that she must have taken the wrong bungalow. In a strange and absurd way, the young girl then leaves in a disturbing silence. A few minutes later, the same scene occurs. This time it is the father who opens the door and faces the protagonist whose face is still bathed in darkness. “ Is Tamarra here?”We hear once again. Before the young girl sets off again in such a confusing manner, stops a few yards away, turns to the father, staring at him, then disappears in the distance.

These two sequences, produced with three times nothing, and which take an idea from the previous film, constitute a gradual start in horror as effective as it is distressing. By eyeing the disturbing strangeness of Freud , The Strangers: Prey at Night therefore demonstrates a little know-how in the management of its atmospheric heritage.

Added to this is a first degree of salvation. A simple scene of a few seconds thus gives the characters of the parents a surprising authenticity. During a light embrace on which melancholy music comes to rest, a fleeting emotion arises. A reassuring moment tinged with frail lyricism. The treatment of antagonists, until the end, demonstrates an approach respectful of the codes of the genre. The climax, which will attract the mockery of the most cynical of the spectators, thus maintains the fantastic mythology initiated by the first film.

In a rather raw violence, the various assaults perpetuated on the characters also constitute a guarantee of quality. Far from the sanitization of too many ghost stories that never cease to invade Hollywood (the recent I Wish – Make a wish in mind).

Watch out
These meager qualities are however very quickly counterbalanced by too impressive scriptwriting deficiencies to make the work a simple successful clone of the first opus. Where the theme of the couple in crisis brought in the previous part a rather welcome adult dimension, the continuation of Roberts struggles to repeat the same small feat. If the characters seem more or less tangible, they nonetheless remain old stereotypes that struggle to extricate themselves from their inaugural representation. Of all the members of the family, it is the girl who has almost all the main writing worries. Common to the problematic teenager, she struggles to arouse empathy. And to give a little height to the marked story of the slasher. Disabling.

Likewise, almost all the sequences of murders and tensions are, if not completely missed, of regrettable poverty. Knife blows, night wanderings, surprise appearances in a pick-up,… each of the twists and turns has already been seen elsewhere, and better. A shame in view of the potential of the film. The three masked killers actually lent themselves a little more to the bloody and inventive sandbox game. The general lack of imagination makes these fall into fantastic figures too conventional to let them fully stand out from a Michael Myers (the Halloween saga ) or a Jason Voorhees (the Friday the 13th franchise ).

Horrific roller coaster without any innovative ideas, The Strangers: Prey at Night remains doomed to exist only in the shadow of its model. Instead of fundamentally changing the winning formula of the latter, and taking more risk, Johannes Roberts prefers to exercise the bare minimum. The whole embellished with clichés which only serve the interest of the work a little more. However, in spite of this, the modesty and the very first degree aspect of the whole give it a certain and relative sympathy.

Essentially dispensable, therefore, and to be reserved for an audience that is above all conciliatory and free from any cynicism.