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|The Strangers: Prey at Night|
dir Johannes Roberts
scr Bryan Bertino, Ben Ketai
prd Wayne Marc Godfrey, James Harris, Robert Jones, Ryan Kavanaugh, Mark Lane
with Christina Hendricks, Martin Henderson, Bailee Madison, Lewis Pullman, Damian Maffei, Emma Bellomy, Lea Enslin, Preston Sadleir, Leah Roberts, Sunny Dixit, Gabriel A Byrne
release US 9.Mar.18, UK 4.May.18
A call for help: Hendricks and Madison
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Like the 2008 original, this disconnected sequel hinges on a group of anonymous killers stalking anonymous innocents for no real reason. It may be "based on true events", but there's nothing remotely authentic about what appears on-screen. Director Johannes Roberts manages a couple of cool-looking sequences that hint at original filmmaking, but without a defined story or characters it's never actually scary.
In Pittsburgh, Cindy and Mike (Hendricks and Henderson) pack up their mopey teen kids Kinsey and Luke (Madison and Pullman) and head to the countryside to visit relatives. But as they settle into their holiday trailer, they notice some strange things happening around them. Indeed, three masked marauders (Maffei, Bellomy and Enslin) are wordlessly stalking them, apparently having already killed everyone else in the community. So this plucky family fights back, overcoming the rather normal strains between them in an attempt to survive. But their attackers are relentless.
There's nothing here beyond three psychopaths trying to murder four victims. Roberts makes effective use of silence, and there's one striking sequence: a blood-soaked tussle in a pool accompanied by Total Eclipse of the Heart. But the script never explains anything about the baddies, who remain blank figures in smirking masks. And aside from the usual relational issues, it doesn't say much about the family members either. Cynically, each one gets a moment to shine with an act of defiance, bravery, heroism or sacrifice.
The lack of detail in the script leaves it to the actors to create some sense of personality. Hendricks and Henderson are fine as concerned parents trying to communicate with their surly kids. Madison and Pullman are rebellious and distant, as required, but of course come together when it counts. Watching the four of them try to fend off these vicious assaults is an oddly empty exercise, so senseless that it's impossible to identify with them.
It's unclear what point the filmmakers are trying to make, as this is basically just a series of violent encounters as nice people fight off cold-blooded killers who drive a pick-up truck that seems to have escaped from a Stephen King novel. There's no more than a whiff of interpersonal drama, no connection between the family members, no reason why these featureless strangers are murdering everyone in such gruesome ways. All of which leaves us wondering why we should be rooting for any of them to survive.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2018 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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