Strangers: Prey At Night (review)

Knock, Knock, Knock… Is an unnecessary but long awaited sequel to one of my favourite films home?

Well yeah actually. Strangers: Prey at night is stalking it’s way into theatres 5th May, and luckily I managed to see it early at one of Odeon’s Scream Unseen events and can tell you if it’s worth the extortionate price of popcorn.

Well i suppose it all depends what you want from your horror sequels. Do you want them to give you a back story of your title villains, like the final girl is actually his sister or his mother was raped and impregnated by 100 maniacs? If so then you are… wrong. Seriously let’s stop doing this. Luckily this film doesn’t cater to your desires – the masked strangers remain just that. Strangers.

Perhaps you wish sequels and remakes just didn’t exist and great stories were left alone. That’s admirable, however I’m sorry I have to welcome you back to the real world where greed crushes artistic integrity on a daily basis.

Or maybe you accept that a horror sequel is never going to be perfect and the best you could ever hope for is sped up rehash of the original film with more 80s slasher vibes and a fabulously camp synth-pop soundtrack? Well if you are the final group then you my beautiful friends are in luck because that’s exactly what you are going to get with Strangers: Prey at Night.

This story works as a stand alone film and doesn’t directly follow on from the original except for the return of our three creepy villains; Doll Face, Pin up and the Man in the Mask, this time at summer camp a la Crystal Lake. They use very similar tactics and say similar lines from their first outing suggesting an order and routine to their kill. This time though they are annoyingly sloppy at times with their killings and the repeat of some line such as their motives for killing don’t work as well this time around.

Probably the biggest downfall of the film is that apart from the soundtrack and a different cast of victims the film has nothing new to offer. Yes I don’t want a a backstory for my villains but why not improve on the original and do some actual character building – is that asking too much? Apparently so. The half unexplained rebellious daughter story arc is so forgettable the film itself forgot to give any resolution to it. Except *spoiler* maybe you don’t have to go to boarding school if not your parents are dead. Yay – off to the orphanage instead!

On the plus side the son and dad are both super hot. Unfortunately, however the accidental incest I saw vibes come from the son and daughter instead, so my latent daddy issues are left unresolved.

I don’t know if the writers didn’t know how to write two good looking teenagers with no sexual tension or if the actors themselves couldn’t hide their own sexual tension but the older brother, younger sister pep talk felt like a date that was going well right up until, you know, the murder part.

Ok so now I’ve got my problems with the film out of the way let’s move on to the good stuff. It’s scary. Admittedly I might be biased as the original has always freaked me out a lot but it has been a long time since I jumped that high in the cinema. I was so wrapped up in the creepy slow build up to scares that I even forgot scares they wasted on the trailer weere about to happen and jumped even higher.

The mix of slow stalking and jump scares is fun and effective. The tension is built in a similar way to the original: faceless people, a loud knock on the door at night, knowing that they are silently watching you. However being a sequel and with a bigger cast the speed is increased and the 3rd act becomes more action based 80s slasher than the slow methodical horror it started as. Yeah, some jumps are cheap but it all manages to work because of the natural impending doom the strangers bring with them.

Probably the most interesting choice the film makes is to have some of our strangers unmasked as the story progresses. I was in two minds over this. My initial reaction was stop it right now I don’t want to see that it will take the horror away. However after my brain digested the scene I realised all it really did was emphasise how human these killers are. They look like every other family when the mask is removed and that actually makes the reality of them even more plausible and terrifying

The soundtrack is perfection and that’s not just my bias as a massive 80s fan. The way the music is used to punctuate the violence is equally menacing and entertaining. If you were as thrilled as me at the creepy use of Tiffany’s ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’ in the trailer then the rest of the film won’t disappoint.

There is a definite ‘predator playing with its prey’ vibe throughout the film again and nowhere is this exemplified more than when one victim is trapped as the the Man in the Mask selects his music to kill them to, and Kim Wilde ‘Cambodia’ is an inspired choice.

The best use of the music and sound is during a pool fight between the son and the Man in the Mask. I don’t want to spoil this moment completely but Bonnie Tyler’s camp classic ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ is put to good use in a very fun and clever scene that was a real highlight for me.

Overall the film adds nothing much new to the original premise or the horror genre, even the ending is a homage to both John Carpenter’s Christine (1983) and Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). However it didn’t lose much of what made the original so bloody good. Don’t expect anything revolutionary and if you don’t like the original then don’t bother but if you did then expect to have a bloody good time on this journey.

I’d recommend you go and see it in the cinema for the full effect and if you are anything like me you will be checking the backseats of the car on the way home.

(SM)

You can hear Stephen’s review and our reviews of ‘Ghost Stories’, ‘A Quiet Place’ and ‘Terrifier’ in our new podcast. Just click below to listen!

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A Quiet Place (Review)

a_quiet_place_still_3A Quiet Place (2018)

Directed by John Krasinski, who stars with real life wife Emily Blunt, A Quiet Place has crept up on the box office and reportedly had the best opening weekend of the year since Black Panther. Proof that positive buzz and good old fashioned word of mouth still has the power to make a genre outing a surprising success.

So is it any good? The answer is yes. In fact it’s very good. Smart and efficient and clocking in at a spritely 98 minutes – take note, please, a horror doesn’t need to be any longer than this – A Quiet Place packs a punch both in the fear stakes and also emotionally. Set in the near future where the planet has been invaded by spider-like creatures who are blind and hunt on sound alone, we’re thrown straight into the action as the Abbott family forage for supplies in an abandoned supermarket in a small town in rural USA. Evelyn (Blunt) and Lee (Krasinski) lead their three children barefoot and on tip-toes silently back through the woods towards home, a farm in the middle of nowhere. But tragedy strikes and we’re introduced to the terrifying alien threat in one swift and brutal attack…

Cut to months later and the Abbotts are picking up the pieces and surviving in silence, but to add another complication, Evelyn is now heavily pregnant. And newborn babies are not known for their silence… It won’t be a huge spoiler to reveal that when the baby comes along everything goes to shit and the Abbotts are thrown into a rapidly escalating battle with the monsters that lie in wait. And not all of them will survive to the finish.

A Quiet Place takes its time to get going but once the attacks begin there is barely room to breathe. The tension is hiked up to the power of ten as Krasinski’s script, refreshingly low on dialogue but a tad high on sentimentality, throws some pretty nifty set-pieces our way. The family take on the aliens in corn-fields (hello Shyamalan and Stephen King), grain-silos, a flooded basement, and at one point even in a bathtub…

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The premise – sound can kill – means the film absorbs its audience whilst at the same time encouraging them to be quiet! Who knew? In the rapidly infuriating multiplex culture of keeping the film noisy to cover the smart-phone obsessed chattering bag-rustling masses, here’s a film that actually quite cleverly silences its viewers. So not only are you more immersed in the action, but you’re actually less obnoxious at the same time. Win win!

The movie brings the scares, the tension, and excellent performances by the young cast who play the Abbott kids tug at the heart strings. Deaf actress Millie Simmonds is especially touching as daughter Regan (where have we heard that name before) who’s disability could prove to be the ultimate undoing of the marauding creatures.

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Being a hardened cynic I found some of the more sentimental moments a little queasy, but don’t let that put you off. This surprising and smart horror movie revels in treating genre fans to all the right tropes in all the right places, and reminds the jabbering masses that silence is golden.

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Now shut the fuck up and watch the damn movie.

(JL)