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The Strangers: Pray at Night (2018)

Given the success, not only at the box office, but the critical response to 'The Strangers' from 2008, I'm very surprised that it took almost 10 years for a sequel to get green lit and to go into production. With such a big time difference between the two movies, the biggest challenge 'The Strangers: Prey at Night' was always going to face was being able to recapture the atmosphere and tone of the first movie, whilst making this feel authentic as a continuation sequel.


'The Strangers: Prey at Night' brings with it a really solid cast. With great performances from its younger two cast members, brother and sister Kinsey and Luke, played by Baillee Madison and Lewis Pullman (yes, son of actor Bill Pullman), as well as engaging performances from the seasoned cast members, parents Cindy and Mike played by Christina Hendricks and Martin Henderson. Together as a unit these cast members all display a very authentic family dynamic, something that I feel is pivotal to the believability of this story.


Although not being set in the 80s, 'The Strangers: Prey at Night' very much showcases its appreciation of movies and music from that time period. Something that is most apparent with its use of its score synth score from Adrian Johnston and 80s-pop era appropriate soundtrack. The soundtrack itself is a big element of this movie that I really loved. Featuring songs from 'Kim Wilde', 'Mental as Anything' and 'Air Supply' to name a few. However, are great as all of those tracks are, for those of you who have seen this movie will know, the use of 'Bonnie Tyler's - Total Eclipse of the Heart' during the pool scene is just masterfully done and a stand out scene in the entire movie.


One thing that really stood out to me here was how well director Johannes Roberts manages to change the pacing of this sequel, by making this installment much more aggressive and slasher oriented, whilst still maintaining that eerie and isolated tone that was so well established in the first movie. The slow build stalker element pacing from the 'The Strangers' is gone and replaced with a much more consistent cat and mouse chase sequence that pick up momentum rather early on in the movies run time, and keeps it at that heightened level up until the closing moments. And whilst this change in direction may not be to everyone's tastes, it felt refreshing to see these once reserved killers take on a much more relentlessly antagonistic toll.


And speaking of the antagonist, Dollface, Man in the Mask and Pin-Up Girl are back and just as sadistic and intimidating as in the first movie. I personally find these characters to collectively be some of the most horrifying villains to come from the genre. Their grounded and realistic approach, makes them a much more terrifying and plausible than that of some of the more supernatural and exaggerated slasher villains we are used to. We get to see a much more human side to them, as not all of them live to make it to the closing credits, something that only enhanced the realism of their characters. The idea that anyone could wear these masks or something similar and commit these acts without reason or purpose is so simple, yet so effective.


It's also very clear that director Johannes Roberts is a big fan of the slasher genre, as 'The Strangers: Prey and Night' does not hold back on its continuous use homages to great horror movies throughout the years. Most notably with 'Christine', 'Halloween' and 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre'. With some scenes almost verging on the edge of plagiarism, be that the appearance of Pin-Up Girl emerging from the darkness like Michael Myers, in what I consider to be one of the best jump scares in the movie, or the flaming truck rolling down the bridge as though it's Christine, and the more obvious final act which is beat for beat the same as the closing moments of 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre'.


Although this new-found direction for 'The Strangers' may not be to everyones liking, I found it to be a very unexpectedly welcomed change of pace. This movie is a love letter to all things great about the past slasher genre and one that utilises some of the more intimidating slasher villains of the modern era in doing so. 'The Strangers: Prey at Night' only matches the quality of the first movie, but in many ways takes the elements that made the first one so great and elevates them to new heights. This is a perfect slasher movie.


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