Pinup Girl, Man in the Mask and Dollface are back 10 years later to terrorize a family in “The Strangers: Prey at Night.” (Brian Douglas, Aviron Pictures)

Pinup Girl, Man in the Mask and Dollface are back 10 years later to terrorize a family in “The Strangers: Prey at Night.” (Brian Douglas, Aviron Pictures)

‘The Strangers: Prey at Night’: Cheesy horror simple, stupid

Director Bryan Bertino sticks to the simple filmmaking mantra that has guided so many before him.

  • Friday, March 9, 2018 1:30am
  • Life

By Michael O’Sullivan

The Washington Post

A follow-up to the 2008 cult horror hit “The Strangers,” “The Strangers: Prey at Night” isn’t really a sequel, at least not in the generally accepted sense of the word. Rather than advancing the story — about a couple who is terrorized by three masked assailants wielding knives and an ax — “Prey at Night” merely repeats that winning formula, swapping out the first film’s victims, played by Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman, for two new characters.

“Characters” is such a strong word.

Teenage Luke (Lewis Pullman) and his younger sister, Kinsey (Bailee Madison), aren’t so much people as pawns, fresh meat that just keeps getting pushed around an increasingly blood-soaked chessboard — here, an empty, dimly lit trailer park, just off the exit for Godforsaken Nowhere. During a stopover with their parents on the way to drop Kinsey off at boarding school, they’re stalked by the same trio of theatrical psychopaths we met 10 years ago: two young women in Halloween masks, known as Dollface and Pinup Girl (Emma Bellomy and Lea Enslin, respectively), and a man (Damian Maffei) with a burlap sack over his head, emblazoned with a crude, scarecrow face. (He’s identified in the credits, less poetically, as the Man in the Mask.) Mom and Dad, played by Christina Hendricks and Martin Henderson, get dispatched fairly quickly, along with some vague, never-specified backstory about Kinsey’s troubled past.

You’ve got to give credit to Bryan Bertino, who wrote and directed the first film on a shoestring budget of $9 million, and who co-wrote this one (with Ben Ketai) before handing the reins to director Johannes Roberts (“47 Meters Down”). At least he sticks to the filmmaking mantra that has guided so many horror auteurs before him: Keep it simple, stupid. You won’t get any bells and whistles here.

In this case, unfortunately, Roberts has opted to keep it simple and stupid, eschewing recognizable human behavior for set pieces that look good but make no rational sense. One lurid, extended sequence takes place in and around a neon-lit swimming pool, where the Man in the Mask goes after Luke, ultimately injuring him, amid an expanding plume of blood, in the aquamarine water. Of course, all that beautiful, if garish, cinematography would have been for naught if Luke had held on to the gun he found a few moments earlier, instead of tossing it away, inexplicably.

Speaking of inexplicable, that attack is set to the song “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” by Bonnie Tyler, which blares from the park’s PA system, in an attempt at — I don’t know, irony? An homage to the golden age of cheese-ball slasher movies? Other soundtrack offerings include such 1980s power ballads as “Kids in America” by Kim Wilde and Air Supply’s “Making Love Out of Nothing at All.” Talk about scary.

Despite such flashes of originality, the whole thing has the air of a cynical, low-quality knockoff of something that wasn’t very good to begin with. In the first film, when Tyler’s character confronts Dollface, asking her why she’s doing this, the answer comes back, jaded and unsettling: “Because you were home.”

In “Prey at Night,” when Kinsey asks the same question, Dollface’s response betrays not only her own apathy, but the film’s profound laziness: “Why not?”

“The Strangers: Prey at Night” (1 1/2 stars)

A family’s road trip takes a dangerous turn when they arrive at a secluded mobile home park to stay with some relatives and find it mysteriously deserted.

Rated R. Contains horror violence and terror throughout, and coarse language

Showing: Alderwood Mall, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Meridian, Pacific Place, Thornton Place, Woodinville, Cascade Mall

Talk to us

More in Life

Ask a pediatrician: Are infrared thermometers safe to use on children?

Some posts on social media warn about the possible dangers of non-contact infrared thermometers.

Health check: Why it’s important to ask an expert about nutrition

They call her “Dr. Quinn, Nutrition Woman” — even though she’s not a doctor — because of the Western TV show.

Pinto greens and beans, in this case, spinach, is a Hispanic take on a favorite Pittsburgh Italian dish. (Gretchen McKay/Post-Gazette/TNS)
The classic Italian ‘beans and greens’ gets a Latin spin

A charred tomatillo salsa adds a bright and zesty finish to this traditional comfort food.

Ancient White Park cows belonging to Burt Degroot Wednesday afternoon on a pasture on Ebey Island April 1, 2020 (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Snohomish rancher raises an ancient breed of cattle

The distinctive British horned livestock have been around since the Middle Ages.

Public Health Essentials! (Snohomish Health District)
How employers can help defeat this pandemic through vaccination

Public Health Essentials! A blog by the Snohomish Health District.

According to Toyota, the 2021 Sienna minivan’s front design was inspired by the Shinkansen Japanese bullet train to impart a sleek, speedy and confident appearance. (Manufacturer photo)
2021 Toyota Sienna might be a game-changer for minivans

All new from the ground up, this fourth-generation version is styled to the nines. Seriously.

A pile of shoes by the front door can be annoying, but it is also evidence of loved ones living together under one roof. (Jennifer Bardsley)
Remembering to cherish the things a mom takes for granted

Here’s to the noise, the mess and the laughter that fills life between now and when the kids are grown.

Dr. Paul on battling adversity when it feels like a ‘dark night’

The Dalai Lama says: There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done — yesterday and tomorrow.

In the Netherlands, pot users go to coffeeshops — not jail.
A coffee shop conversation about marijuana in Amsterdam

If you pass a shop in the Netherlands full of plants displaying a Rastafarian flag, it doesn’t sell much coffee.

Most Read