Exactly a decade after The Strangers hit cinemas, a sequel has been released, which finds the eponymous psychopathic trio stalking a dysfunctional family in an abandoned trailer park. A sequel in the loosest sense, Prey at Night only connects itself to the original by using the same antagonists and a similar formula, carrying on the proud “slasher” tradition of being a sequel which has virtually nothing to do with its predecessor. Then again, at least the typical horror sequel will try to maintain a similar tone and atmosphere from its predecessor, and Prey at Night has gone out its way to detach itself stylistically from the original. Whereas The Strangers used minimalistic tactics to create a sense of dread, Prey at Night heightens the entertainment value with elaborate setpieces, an expanded setting, and a soundtrack filled to the brim with 80s pop hits.
While fans of the original may be disappointed by Prey at Night for its tonal devitiation, and it has been derided by critics, Prey at Night is, in its own right, supremely entertaining, even riveting, despite some obvious flaws, many of which center around misguided attempts to evoke the 80s. The most egregious example of this would be the director’s overt use of zooms through some of the more tense sequences, which almost gives the impression that its a student film, or at the very least a far more amateurish production than it is. Because when Prey at Night gets things right, it practically excels. The characters are all given dimension, and each bears a believable relationship to the other, making it easier to invest in their survival. This makes a series of terrifying sequences all the more nail biting, and all the more grounded. Slasher films of this ilk continually run the risk of becoming extravagant to the point of ludicrousy, and “Prey at Night” never crosses that line, despite the fact that one of the slashers in question continually plays pop songs as he chases down his victims, which was gleefully demented rather than silly and trite. If you’re a fan of the genre, “Prey at Night” is easily recommended, but it’s also recommended that you brace yourself through a slow first act and a few misguided choices.
On that note, some of the criticisms over this film should be addressed, because many of them are simply not credible. Many critics have complained that the protagonists are so idiotic that the film borders on parody. Frankly, the protagonists here could be Harvard graduates compared to other slasher protagonists. Aside from a few eye-rolling moments, the characters display as much rationale as anybody put through such a harrowing situation. Lastly, others have complained about cliches, the ultimate dirty word of cinema. On the counterpoint, I’d like to submit that cliches don’t matter so much as how they’re utilized. A cliche becomes a problem when they feel contrived and therefore out of place. “Prey at Night” has a narrative which plays out naturally, and if that encompasses a few cliches, then so be it. Aside from an ill-conceived anything, “Prey at Night” isn’t guilty of anything harsher than adhering to a formula that slasher films have been following since John Carpenter’s Halloween. The only difference is that Prey at Night does it better than most. 3/5
Written by: Gabe Theis
Unfortunately, it failed to capture an inkling of the true suspense I received in the first film. The amount of cliché horror tropes placed throughout the film left me wondering if it was some strange meta homage to every slasher ever made. From the “Based on true events” during the opening to the nuclear American family this film surrounds. The actors in the film did their best for a film of this caliber, I was surprised to see Bailee Madison in a more mature role than I am used to. If I were to grade this film, I would give it a 2/5. It did not meet my expectations at all, this is definitely an “it’s 1 pm on a Saturday and I’m browsing Netflix” type of movie.
Written by: Ahmad Wilson