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.

“Don’t Breathe” movie review

DontBreatheDon’t visit Detroit. Don’t Breathe is a brilliant horror film that will keep your adrenaline pumping and keep you guessing from the beginning of Act II to the final cut to black. Crossing into different sub-genres of horror, this movie will capture your attention every moment and catch you off guard every chance it gets. Although there is no scientific evidence for the collective belief that when one sense is removed that the others take over, it does make for a fantastic plot device that will greatly heighten your own senses while watching this efficiently ruthless movie. This is definitely a horror film to experience on the big screen–don’t wait for Prime, Play, RedBox, or HBONow. The most terrifying element of this movie is the feeling of being trapped in the dark. Just as the characters are experiencing the labyrinth that is the home of the intended robbery victim, you will also feel helpless as the terror unfolds in front of your eyes and you have nowhere to hide. Going into this film, you may think it simply a new twist on the home invasion sub-genre of horror, but you will soon find out that there is so much more to this movie than meets the eye. While some films–horror or not–are often guilty of wasting time, especially in the first acts respectively, Sony-Screen Gems’ Don’t Breath is a cinematic claustrophobic rollercoaster that includes one terrifying turn after another. In other news, if you’re looking to buy a house, this film includes some great shots of your next neighborhood in Detroit.

With all their friends gone, three young people are desperately trying to leave the city they once called home. Turning to petty theft and larceny, Money (Daniel Zovatto), Rocky (Jane Levy), and Alex (Dylan Minnette) receive a tip from a local crime boss that there is a house with enough money to get them all out the city. After learning that the home is inhabited by a blind old man (Stephen Lang), the small band of thieves conclude that this will be an easy gig. With the aid of security codes and keys from Alex’s father’s security business, who manages the few inhabited homes in Detroit, Alex, Money, and Rocky plan the heist. After the robbery goes 180 degrees in the opposite direction, this supposedly easy target now has them trapped. And a terrifying realization will have them holding their breath as to not get caught or worse. Two parts home invasion, one part heist, and three parts horror, this terrifying movie will have you on the edge of your seat.

For the sake of not giving anything away in the movie, I am going to keep this review on the shorter side. Sometimes the best horror movies are those that have a very simple premise. And this is definitely one of those. The heist genre is one of the oldest in the cinematic handbook. After all The Great Train Robbery (1903) was the first American film to pioneer composite editing, on-location shooting, and dynamic camera movement. Although not the very first motion picture, it is among the first and considered by many to be the first commercially successful motion picture. Early on in the dawn of commercial cinema, horror was quite prominent, thanks to Carl Laemmle who founded Universal Pictures. Don’t Breathe includes elements from many different films in the official sub-genres of horror; but to explore each of those would give away some terrifyingly morbid plot twists in the movie. The point is, this film borrows from both horror and non-horror films that helped to forge the foundation of commercially successful cinema. It’s of no surprise, after watching it, that is will likely do very well this weekend. Given that it has an August release date, I was concerned that–as good as it looked in the trailers–that it would not play out very well because the best horror films, this time of year, are released in latter September and October to make way for Halloween! But, I was totally wrong; I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Speaking of Halloween, this movie would make an absolutely perfect addition to Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights next year if they can secure the rights from Sony Pictures.

Regarding the location of the film, this is just the latest in horror films (as well as other genres) to use the motor city as the backdrop for a violent story. As a producer, myself, I realize that part of the draw to that location is the simple fact that it is incredibly cheap to shoot there. The other part is that it effortlessly sets up a feeling of uneasiness from an aerial shot of the city or suburbs. Not entirely sure that having horror films and other violent movies set in your city, now in ruins, will do much for inspiring entrepreneurs or other professionals to relocate; but it does showcase the city as a welcoming place for filmmakers who seek to pursue their respective dreams of success at visual storytelling. Ghost towns have often been used in westerns, horror, and treasure hunt movies; and without having to go to a foreign country, there really is a perfect modern ghost town right here in the US. Whether it needs to serve as a location that symbolizes greatness in ruins or to instantly prompt apprehension or unbalance, it is a diverse landscape upon which to build a story.

Just when you think the film is over, it will throw you for a loop! Looking for a fantastic film to watch on a date or with your friends this weekend, then I highly recommend Don’t Breathe. It’s the perfect film to usher in this most macabre time of year. Not defaulting to gore and jump scares, this movie is a beautifully and meticulously crafted work of cinema that will genuinely cause your blood to race and keep your senses on edge.