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  Strangers: Prey at Night, The Motiveless Assault
Year: 2018
Director: Johannes Roberts
Stars: Christina Hendricks, Martin Henderson, Bailee Madison, Lewis Pullman, Damien Maffei, Emma Bellomy, Lea Enslin, Mary Louise Casanta, Ken Strunk, Rachel Kuhn, Leah Roberts, Preston Sadleir, Gabriel A. Byrne
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: This film is based on a true story. Night has fallen on this trailer park, and a truck pulls up outside one of the homes, its radio playing an eighties oldie as the three occupants ponder their next move. Then one of them knocks on the door, and an elderly man gets out of bed to answer it, which is definitely not wise as the next thing he knows, someone is inside the home... The next day, a family is planning to visit the couple, despite how reluctant the two teenage kids (Bailee Madison and Lewis Pullman) are to spend time with their relatives, and that includes their mother (Christina Hendricks) and father (Martin Henderson), but a vague sense of duty prevails, and soon they're on the road.

The Strangers was a bleak little item from ten years before this sequel was released, picking up a cult following among Millennials who responded to its scares, be that in the cinema or more likely when they caught up with it at home. It was evidently profitable enough over that considerable length of time to justify this follow-up, co-written by the initial entry's director Bryan Bertino, and hewing very closely to the narrative he had dreamt up, except now instead of a couple being terrorised, it was a family. The aunt and uncle are bumped off within the first couple of minutes, not that the folks we are supposed to be invested in are aware of that when they arrive for a get-together.

Mom wanders into the trailer and sees a note she assumes is penned by the uncle to the effect that they went to bed and will see them tomorrow, but we can tell this is an untruth and the four of them are in deep trouble. This was released far enough into the Twenty-First Century to be tapping into the paranoia engendered by the media, and that included social media, where the fear of death threats from, yes, strangers was a daily occurrence for many, either for saying the "wrong" thing online, or merely because somebody out there was seeking somebody else to victimise, as this had become the overriding pastime for countless bullies and undiagnosed sociopaths across society.

Therefore, the Strangers movies seemed to have their finger on the pulse of the general unease in the air, which would appear to make it a shoo-in for the scariest movie evah, right? Not if you were already jaded by a bunch of similar movies that had shown up since 2008, and that included The Purge and its sequels, which had been a hit franchise off the back of that "people you have never spoken to, never mind recognise, now wanting you dead for reasons they won't specify" plot line it had capitalised on and even politicised, something the first instalment of this had not bothered with. Nope, this was scare in the community business, but only went as far as traipsing after slasher flick conventions, and any inherent message this wished to convey was not about to be laboured: it was all about the chase.

It was plain who was going to survive, or at least survive to confront the bad guys properly in the finale, though that also meant the most interesting character was offed in the first half hour (no, not the uncle). Yet with every reservation, and being aware this was not ever going to be the most popular horror sequel of all time, far from it, director Johannes Roberts had a very decent grasp of how to make this visually interesting, not bad when it was basically one damn thing after another, the sequence in the swimming pool in particular standing out as more stylish than the average slasher setpiece. The near-constant use of eighties pop on the soundtrack, and that font for the titles, made one think there was some half-hearted move to cash in on TV's Stranger Things, either that or the motiveless killers were actually soundtrack tie-in compilers who had been driven mad by hearing Total Eclipse of the Heart one time too many. But if you had no expectations or pretensions, Prey at Night was as simple a chiller as they come and on that premise acceptable enough - these didn't have to be brilliant, did they? Synth music by Adrian Johnston. It wasn't based on real events, incidentally.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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