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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Previously, on Screaming Queenz…

We’ll be back after our little Summer break next week. Meanwhile have you caught up on all our podcast episodes so far? Here’s a selection for your delectation. A mix of vampires, witches, Italian slashers and good old-fashioned monster movies. All of them come with an unhealthy dose of camp humour, poor taste and disgusting language!

From Peter Cushing to porno, the references for Fright Night come thick and fast…

So who the fuck died and made the Babadook a gay icon? With a little help from The Village People we decipher just why this demonic children’s fable cashed in on the pink pound…

Who knew the eternally young Lost Boys would ever hit 30? Well they just did, so reminisce with big hair, 80s power rock, and the dark underbelly of Hollywood paedophiles…

Which witch are you? A badass 90s high-schooler or a psychadelic 70s lesbian with a penchant for S&M? Check out our two-parter on witches in horror, both parts here:

Do you like giallo? We love giallo. What the fuck is giallo? Find out here:

There’s like 37 more episodes for you to get your teeth into over on SoundCloud but you can also hear them via Podbean and Itunes, links below. So listen, laugh, loathe if you must. Get in touch and let us know your thoughts, get me on twitter @jonnylarkin or email us at Screamingqueenz@gmail.com!

JL

http://screamingqueenz.podbean.com

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/screaming-queenz/id1070845275?mt=2

“WE ALL GO A LITTLE MAD SOMETIMES”

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So much about Pscyho fascinates me. A balls-out, in-your-face shocker from the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, it hit the big screen in 1960 to very mixed reviews. It was seen as a cheap schlockfest, it was seen as scandalous in how it stuck two fingers up to the moral decency code that had made movies keep their clothes on for years, but most of all it thrilled the general public. So no matter how sniffy the critics might have been, it got bums on seats and became the blueprint for every slasher movie that followed over a decade later.

From its opening bars, literally coming at you thanks to the strings of Bernard Herrmann, you know you’re not in for a subtle time. Then the first scene, sliding through an open window on a hot Arizona day to find a couple of lovers half naked and post-coital, sets the tone for a film that is about sex and loneliness. Heroine Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) wants to be respectable and settle down to the life society thinks she should lead, but shock horror she’s in love with the recently separated Sam Loomis (John Gavin) who isn’t divorced yet. So like a pair of adulterers they’re forced to meet in hotel rooms that you rent by the hour for a little afternoon delight. Personally meeting John Gavin for a sex session every week in a stuffy hotel room would suit me down to the ground, but things were very different for an office working female in the 60s.

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She’s boiling over, desperate for escape, trapped in a rut by her financial situation and Sam’s. So when opportunity presents itself in the form of $40,000 waved under her nose by a rich Texan, she makes a snap decision that will change her life forever, and dare I say – SPOILER – end it.

Marion jumps from one trap into another, and when she stops at the Bates Motel she meets the shy, awkward but rather gorgeous Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins). He’s trapped by his own circumstances – a domineering mother, a life unfulfilled, and his crippling shyness belies a desperate loneliness. In a fantastically written and played scene Norman and Marion compare battle scars of those who are trapped and alone, and Norman convinces Marion to turn on her heels and dig herself out of her hole. But before she can do that, she needs to take a shower. And Norman’s mother isn’t happy to find her son perving over this naked lady as she switches on the hot water and begins to cleanse herself of past mistakes.

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Anyone who doesn’t know the twist that comes when Marion hops into the shower has either been living under a rock their whole life or is very lucky. In recording this podcast, Martin was surprised to find his partner Matt was indeed one of the lucky ones. What an absolute thrill to be taken by surprise when the inevitable fate befalls our heroine. That’s the thing with Psycho, there is a sense of inevitability and doom that scores its entire first half. You’re asked to sit and watch as Marion makes mistake after mistake, when all you want to do is reach into the TV and shake her, tell her to keep driving or to go back. But she doesn’t, and that’s what is so shocking. Not only does it make you feel voyeuristic and helpless, it leaves you conflicted. Because when Norman’s got a mess on his hands, you kinda want him to get away with it. A film of two halves that set the bar for shock twists as, we tend to forget, not only does it have the shock shower scene… but there is another twist 10 minutes before the ending, when Mrs Bates shows her bony face.

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Hitchcock had a wicked old sense of humour. He took glee and relish in horrifying us whether it was a bird attack on the fabulous Tippi Hedren or a dead body in a trunk whilst the corpse’s loved ones sipped wine and wondered where he’d got to. In Psycho his wicked humour plays out like a carnival ghost train. He tips a wink to the audience whilst traumatising us, which is perfectly summed up in the comedic and macabre trailer for Psycho. Here Hitch takes us around the scene of a crime, beckoning us into darkened rooms, daring us to feast our eyes on the horrors within.

Many rumours exist over the making of Psycho. That Hitch shocked Janet Leigh with cold water in the shower scene, that Anthony Perkins drew from real life (and very disturbing) experience for Norman’s mother/son relationship, and that it was the first movie to ever feature a flushing toilet! Not to mention Marion’s license plate – was it on purpose? To find out give our new podcast a listen. It’s a feature length episode with clips and music aplenty, and one where we discuss everything from Pat Hitchcock’s tranquilisers to the sad death of Anthony Perkins from Aids.

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At the heart of it we talk about our love for the movie and just what makes Psycho a bona fide slasher movie to beat them all. Apologies in advance for my constant references to Gavin and Perkins indulging in sodomy. What can I say? They were made for each other!

Get the podcast via iTunes here:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/screaming-queenz-ep-36-psycho/id1070845275?i=1000384397368&mt=2

Enjoy. You might need a shower afterwards…

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(JL)