In 2008, "The Strangers" breathed new life into a genre dying from dullness.
Fear that derived from the completely plausible situation of an unwelcomed guest staying for torturous entertainment because the victims were home and didn't lock their doors seemed to be the gateway to recitation.
Unfortunately eliminating jump scares did not jump-start the heart of horror. Like Flo Rida's music, this 2008 recipe for success has not aged well 10 years later.
In fairness, screenwriter Bryan Bertino, who wrote and directed the first film, is not serving the same maniacal meal twice. Comparing the unapologetically generic formula for "Strangers: Prey at Night" and the minimalist makeup of "The Strangers" is like juxtaposing the Chum Bucket with the Krusty Krab.
"Strangers: Prey at Night"— the title itself denoting a cheesy movie is ahead— starts in an abandoned trailer park where a dysfunctional family coexists.
While this isn't "Courage the Cowardly Dog Show," creepy stuff still happens in the middle of nowhere. Three strangers named Dollface (Emma Bellomy), Pin Up Girl (Lea Enslin), and the Man in the Mask (Damian Maffei) unexpectedly arrive to torture the family.
The trio speaks softly and carries big knives.
Regardless, it is safe to say that this film will not be nearly as revered as President Theodore Roosevelt. An innovative first effort punctuated by the horror power of plausibility has degenerated into a generic gorefest. Consequently, viewer's eyes will roll instead of wincing in delightful dread.
The score is also cheesy at times. Though the John-Caprenter-esque original music is welcoming, there are several times where 1980s tunes telegraph the arrival of a killing. Though perhaps done to satirize classic slashers of that decade, the effort did not receive a roar of laughter from the theater.
The dialogue, though not too painful, lacks the punch the first film had. For example, "The Strangers" explanation of their motivations as "because you were home" has now been replaced with "why not?"
Dull scripting does beg the question, "Why did an actress of Christna Hendricks' stature take a starring role in this?"
One positive aspect of this film is the cinematography. This film is shot well and creates a chaotic atmosphere that blends simplistic creepiness and eye-catching amounts of inferno and stunts.
Additionally, the pacing is not offensive. The film may not be scary enough to reside in viewers' nightmares, but enough happens to prevent eyes from wandering to cell phones. This is not an easy task for a cliche 100-minute movie.
That said, though the ending is aesthetically appealing, it does seem drawn out.
Ultimately, this film fails to advance "The Strangers" saga. Instead, it succeeds in continuing the curse of unnecessary horror movie sequels.