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Review – The Strangers: Prey at Night – “A mean and moody modern slasher”

Man in the Mask, Dollface and Pin-up Girl from The Strangers return – after a ten-year absence – for the sequel The Strangers: Prey at Night. The latest instalment is directed by Johannes Roberts (47 Metres Down), and stars Christina Hendricks (Drive), Martin Henderson (Smokin’ Aces), Bailee Madison (Bridge to Terabithia) and Lewis Pullman (Battle of the Sexes).

“Based on true events”, The Strangers: Prey at Night sees the mask-wearing home invaders taking on something a little bigger this time around, a whole caravan park. Staying at the Catlin Lake site are a family consisting of mum Cindy (Hendricks) and dad Mike (Henderson), and their goth and jock kids: Kinsey (Madison) and Luke (Pullman). Under emotional and financial strain – due to sending Kinsey to boarding school to try and temper her rebellious streak – they must pull together to survive the night.

Hendricks and Henderson pitch their parts as the parents just right – likeable understandable and relatable, and not hesitating when it comes to protecting their family. Bailee and Lewis’s stereotypes wear away as the film progresses, with Madison and Pullman providing nuanced performances that see them evolve from splintered siblings that pretend to hate each other into fierce badasses with each other’s backs.

The Strangers themselves are still a genuinely scary threat – motiveless and stalking and slashing for the pure enjoyment of it. They do not just hunt our heroes, they toy with them mercilessly in painful and gruelling games of cat and mouse. With their real mask-less faces only ever seen in shadow or silhouette, these killers are remorseless masochistic thrillseekers that cannot be bargained with.

Johannes Roberts refracts the entire film through a John Carpenter superfan lens. Not just nodding at the Master of Horror with his use of title font and a The Fog-esqe theme but utilising shots that evoke Assault on Precinct 13, Halloween and Christine. The homages are not just empty and cosmetic though. Roberts foreboding trailer park thick with mist and places to creep and lurk feel very much like Carpenter killing grounds, and Roberts uses them and his cast’s isolation under threat to conjure up a brutally claustrophobic atmosphere.

Splashes of neon and sodium lighting are used sparingly and cleverly to break the oppressive darkness, as well as an awesome 80s soundtrack – reinforced with some Carpenter/Howarth sounding synth scoring by Adrian Johnston (I Am Not a Serial Killer). A pool scene set to Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” combines all of these elements to create an all-timer of an attack scene, that is then topped minutes later.

The Strangers: Prey at Night is a mean and moody modern slasher powered by Carpenter, a throbbing soundtrack and standout suspense sequences.

The Strangers: Prey at Night is released in the UK on the 4th of May.

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