When The Strangers: Prey at Night, the sequel to The Strangers, was announced in 2009, fans were excited for the continuation ten years in the making. Unfortunately, the film was a let down from its prequel.
Mike (Martin Henderson), his wife Cindy (Christina Hendricks) and their kids, Kinsey (Bailee Madison) and Luke (Lewis Pullman) were on a drive to drop off Kinsey at a boarding school in order to improve her behavior. At one point, the family stopped at mobile home park at Gatlin Lake where they were terrorized by three masked psychopathic murderers, Dollface (Emma Bellomy), Man in a Mask (Damian Maffei) and Pin-Up Girl (Lea Enslin). When the killers were asked why they were terrorizing their victims, the characters answered, “why not” and “because you were home.”
Both films in the franchise are said to be based on true events, in which masked killers terrorized and eventually massacred a family. Director Bryan Bertino got inspiration for the film from a traumatizing childhood experience.
“As a kid, I lived in a house on a street in the middle of nowhere. One night, while our parents were out, somebody knocked on the front door and my little sister answered it. At the door were some people asking for somebody that didn’t live there”, Bertino recalls. “We later found out that these people were knocking on doors in the area and, if no one was home, breaking into the houses.”
Following the same plot, The Strangers: Prey at Night was then inspired by its prequel. There was a 2009 case of eight people killed in a mobile home, but it’s a stretch. The film gives tribute to '80s thrasher films with its soundtrack featuring Kim Wilde’s “Kids in America,” Tiffany’s “I Think We’re Alone Now”and Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” to name a few tracks.
Though, the soundtrack and mood of the film strongly reflected the eeriness of the concept, the acting and character development dampened the overall quality of the film and lost its horror elements. For example, the family is split up the majority of the film, even though they fully realized there were multiple killers. Bailey Madison’s acting was believable, however, Kinsey’s survival abilities were less than believable. When she was chased by the Man in a Mask, she ran down the center of a road, which made it easier for him to track her down. When she stumbled upon a police officer, who happened to stroll through, she failed to grab his radio to dispatch for backup, forgot the rifle when she ran, and walked away without a scratch when she blew up the cop car and the Man in a Mask’s truck. Further, the Man in a Mask continued to drive toward Kinsey immediately after his car was engulfed in fire, like that’s totally normal.
On a larger issue, Kinsey was portrayed as the victim. She was just another a pretty, young, girl with smeared mascara. She ran away and screamed for help, instead of fighting back. There were certain scenes that tried to be plot twists, but didn’t develop Kinsey as a strong character.
Overall, the film implemented overdone tactics and undeveloped the characters’ arcs. The ‘scare’ scenes weren’t truly terrifying — they were only knee jerk reactions to loud music. The overall acting was exaggerated, where the moviegoers were laughing instead of screaming. For example, the lifespan of the Man in a Mask was highly unrealistic. Apparently, the character could withstand and potentially kill Kinsey all while he was on fire, stabbed in the stomach with a piece of glass and bashed in the head with a baseball bat. It’s great comedy.
The reactions to the film were mixed on Twitter.