(2018) (Bailee Madison, Lewis Pullman) (R)
- QUICK TAKE:
- Horror: A family must contend with three masked psychopaths who want to kill them in a deserted trailer park.
- Kinsey (BAILEE MADISON) is anything but a happy teenager. For reasons never revealed, her parents -- Cindy (CHRISTINA HENDRICKS) and Mike (MARTIN HENDERSON) -- are sending her off to boarding school and she's about as mad as she can get. But with no real recourse, she sets out on a road trip for that school with them and her older brother, Luke (LEWIS PULLMAN). With plans to spend the night at an out of season trailer park run by the kids' aunt and uncle who they'll see the next day, the family settles in for the night.
Little do they know that a trio of psychopaths -- never identified in the film but listed in the credits as Dollface (EMMA BELLOMY), Man in the Mask (DAMIAN MAFFEI) and Pin-Up Girl (LEA ENSLIN) -- have already killed the older couple in another trailer and have now set their sights on these newcomers. From that point on, the family members try to avoid being killed by the strangers and hope to get help.
- OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
- Ask any parent and they'll tell you that raising kids is simultaneously one of the greatest joys in life but also one of the most challenging and often frustrating endeavors someone can experience. Sure, there are some sweet spot age ranges where everything seems great, but they're usually replaced too quickly by years that cause hair to turn grey or be pulled out.
The teenage ones are often the hardest, and while boys can experience angst and other negative emotions -- when not doing dumb and risky things -- they have nothing on teen girls. There's a reason many are given the label of "drama queen" as they reign over "woe is me" and "why me" attitudes and behavior that would violate the Geneva Convention if prisoners of war were subjected to that.
While such a mindset usually isn't warranted in terms of external forces, sometimes it is, although hard knock life kids usually don't complain as much as their contemporaries who really don't have anything to moan about in comparison.
Of course, if three masked psychopaths were out to kill you, your teenage brother and your parents, the drama queen experience would be completely justified and understandable to all. Such is the case with Kinsey (Bailee Madison) who's one of four family members subjected to such terror in "The Strangers: Prey at Night."
A long-in-the-making sequel to the 2008 horror flick "The Strangers," the story -- penned by Bryan Bertino and Ben Ketai -- has Kinsey already in full "DQ" mode as she's mad and fit to be tied due to her parents sending her off to boarding school for some never disclosed "stupid teenager sh*t" behavior.
She begrudgingly sets off for this institution with her brother (Lewis Pullman) and parents (Christina Hendricks and Martin Henderson) and plans on spending the night with an aunt and uncle at the trailer park they run but is now in the off-season. When they arrive, a key and note are left for them and they plan on seeing the relatives in the morning.
But that's not to be as -- unbeknownst to them -- three masked psychopaths (never identified, with only a few lines of dialogue between all of them, and with only one briefly seen sans facial covering) have already slaughtered the two and are now looking for some fresh blood.
Considering it's a sequel, it's no surprise it pretty much borrows and follows the story blueprint from the first film. But it also suffers from the same issues and problems I pointed out a decade ago in the original flick. Namely (and taken from my review): "What follows is nothing more than standard boogeyman material: Noises in the house; slow walking around to investigate; views of the masked and hooded figures lurking about; some chasing; some injuries and close-calls; and some deaths. Oh, and don't forget the stupid/idiotic/unbelievable choices and actions the victims make and take, all presumably to goose the viewers' fight or flight reflex."
Our four family members wouldn't win any sort of Darwin's survival of the fittest awards. Had the writers and director Johannes Roberts been going after an allegory of sorts about the figurative and literal perils of being distracted by social media and modern tech, I possibly could have bought into the stupidity of these folks. But such distractions aren't the cause here and thus the flick ends up suffering badly from a case of unbelievable behavior that distracts the viewer and thus removes them from what should have been the tension and horrors of the situation at hand.
Then again, such stupidity fueled the color commentary provided by the two young women seated near me at our press/promo screening where their nearly non-stop, play-by-play observations focused on such inane decisions and behavior. At least that was amusing for a while but alone couldn't carry the film for me.
And with Roberts being no Steven Spielberg when it comes to crafting suspense stemming from an anonymous figure trying to kill our main character (as Spielberg superbly did in "Duel"), this ends up simply being nothing more than what we've seen countless times before. If this movie was my child, I'd send it to its room until it figured out how to be truly scary and unsettling. "The Strangers: Prey at Night" isn't and thus rates as no more than a 3 out of 10.
Reviewed March 5, 2018 / Posted March 9, 2018
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