The Strangers Prey at Night (2018) movie review

Terrifyingly good! “Is Tamara home?” If those words haunted your memories for months after the first time, you’re in for another round of terror. The original is the only nightmare-inducing horror movie to frighten me so much that it was years before I could watch it again. Of course, I was also much younger and did not appreciate horror films to the extent that I do today. Although the sequel is not AS terrifying as the original, it is still incredibly intense and takes your adrenaline for a good ride. Even after the movie ended and I was leaving the auditorium, my heart was still racing. There isn’t anything innovative or in particularly memorable about the movie except the high tension level the whole time, but it does approach the rape-revenge horror movie plot with a new twist. What I appreciate about this modified home-invasion horror plot is just how much fun it is to watch with everyone else in the auditorium. Ordinarily, Thursday night pre-screenings of horror films (and many other genres) are not completely booked, but the two shows at the Thursday night preview were nearly sold out. Should you choose to check into the creepy trailer park, you’re in for some solid scares.

On Mike and Cindy’s way to take their daughter McKinzie to a boarding school along with their son Luke, they check into a lakeside trailer park owned by Cindy’s aunt and uncle. Unbeknownst to them, they are checking into their worst nightmare as masked individuals stalk and prey upon the unsuspecting family. Even before one hand of cards can be dealt, the family receives a visit from a mysterious girl. Creeped out by the visit, the family begins to suspect that something is wrong. Shortly thereafter, the family finds themselves in a desperate fight for survival as three masked psychopaths seek to quench their insatiable thirst for blood. “Why? Well, why not???”

For the sake of not spoiling anything, I’m going to keep this one on the shorter side. But I wanted to touch on the plot because it differs from the pacing and structure of the original. Whereas the first movie (2008) was mostly a cut and dry home-invasion, this one takes the home-invasion in a different direction and adds in rape-revenge.

On the former, the setting of The Strangers Prey at Night is a whole trailer park and not just a single house; however, there are a few times throughout the movie that the family finds themselves close quarters with the three masked psychopaths. Despite this similarity with the original, this film does not provide nearly the level of claustrophobia that our central characters had in the first one. Still, the extreme confinement can be found in this installment because there is just one way in or out, and the rest is surrounded by a fence. Instead of just a home being invaded, an entire campground is under the siege of bloodthirsty psychos. In a way, this is far more dangerous because there are more places to hide, and therefore your senses will be greatly heightened to the world around you.

My latter point regarding the type plot found in this horror film points to a new take on the rape-revenge plot. Now before you question what I am talking about (for those who are unfamiliar with the term), the rape-revenge plot is characterized by the victim of a violent crime turning on his or her would-be killer and becoming the attacker him or herself. A couple great examples of this are in the films Last House on the Left and the grindhouse classics like Spit on Your Grave and Death Proof. Essentially Act I consists of the male or female character being raped (or another violent act such as torture or attempted murder), Act II follows the rehabilitation (or mostly, anyway) of the victim, and Act III features the male or female victim enacting revenge on and/or kills the rapist (or torturer). The aforementioned theme is found within the plot structure but does put the film’s unique flavor on it. To reveal what the twist is exactly would reveal too much about the movie.

Interestingly, this installment leaves the end open enough for a followup. Not entirely sure The Strangers needs to become a franchise–it really doesn’t–but it’s definitely set up to continue to make money with subsequent releases. If you’re looking for a solid fright night that does NOT principally rely upon jump scares, and successfully increases the tension throughout the movie that will keep your pulse rate racing, then this is definitely a movie for you. I also appreciate that the movie does not rely upon gore to make it a “horror” movie, but actually uses twists, turns, and anticipation to deliver the terror.


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