The Strangers 2: Preying for more — Moviepass the sequel or pass it up


The Strangers: Prey at Night just hit the multiplexes, ready to have you locking your doors tightly. But does the new sequel leave you praying for more?

The following review contains minor spoilers. You’ll be safe to go ahead and read. As for a few strangers getting you, I can’t make promises..


All families experience minor hardships, others pray for survival. After their daughter gets caught causing trouble, Cindy (Christina Hendricks) and Mike (Martin Henderson) decide their daughter desperately needs boarding school reform. Stopping at a relatives to avoid pricey hotels, all seems on track. But when they’re visited by a mysterious girl seeking a friend, everything changes. Soon, the family becomes engaged in a life and death battle. And if they aren’t smart in the dark of night, they won’t live to see sunlight. Welcome to The Strangers: Prey at Night.


Johannes Roberts’ The Strangers: Prey at Night — Courtesy of Aviron Pictures


Written by Ben Ketai, The Strangers: Prey at Night is as terrible as it is terrifying. Opening with an act as generic as knock off Nikes, the film is wooden in its first 20 to 25 mins. Character interactions are bland, leaning on worn ideas of the american family instead of genuine people. Son plays America’s favorite pastime. Check. Rebellious daughter wears ironic old band tee shirts. Check. Clueless corny dad. Check. It’s almost as if it’s Ketai’s first draft of his very first script.

Is Tamera home? — Dollface

And character believably is far from the only problem here. Instead of making Kinsey distinctly the main character, Ketai leans on too many moments of unnecessary exposition. Audiences are smart enough to relate with family dynamics and possible struggles, we don’t need pandering. We want characters to live through. We want an emotional experience. Once the ending comes around, the payoff doesn’t carry nearly enough levity.

Also, there’s one moment where I really believe the creators want viewers to forget about reality. While I won’t ruin, you can’t expect us to think someone would survive a certain circumstance. You can’t lean on reality (crazy people kill for zero motive in life) and then sprinkle in moments of fantasy — it doesn’t work. Storytellers have to answer questions before audiences ask, not prose unanswered ones.

But that’s not to say the entire script is terrible. In fact, what works truly fires on all cylinders. Unexpected deaths, characters becoming more authentic as time passes and an unforgettable pool scene really help the overall experience. The problem is, it comes a little too late. (C-)


Johannes Roberts’ The Strangers: Prey at Night — Courtesy of Aviron Pictures

Like the scripting, The Strangers: Prey at Night’s acting starts off terrible but gets better with time. At first, every interaction feels forced as if these people aren’t related — especially from the young cast members. The only saving grace are the two veterans, who help sell the crap dialog they’re given in the beginning. I believe that they’re married — I didn’t believe the kids are siblings.

But then things change. As the night gets darker and the strangers prey more, the younger leads begin to shine brighter. Played by Bailee Madison and Lewis Pullman, respectively, Kinsey and Luke are really tested,  the actors seemingly growing throughout the picture. The film more than likely wasn’t shot in sequence, which makes it seem stranger. Either way, they’re like wine in the sequel to the 2008 cult film– they get better with time. (C)


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Directed by Johannes Roberts, the second Strangers is like everything else on the from porch — uneven. While there are no doubt moments of solid filmmaking on display, missteps are present. In actuality, I can only think of one technique I found amateurish and confusing.

At two points, the 47 Meter Down director zooms in on characters like your mother learning to use a camcorder in the ’90s. Not only is it distracting, it comes off like a found footage movie — seemingly just because the camera can do it.

Conversely, the direction that works is the film’s best feature. Borrowing from filmmaking greats like John Carpenter, we get many multi-concept shots, effectively amping the suspense by not overly cutting. There are a few that will have you jumping out of your seat, which is a nice change from generic jump scares (there’s one or two, but Halloween has one as well).

Then there’s the epic pool sequence. Without giving too much away, this was the scene I left the theater thinking about. The way Roberts shoots these tense moments, featuring a character fighting off a stranger in intense ways, is sharper than a kitchen knife. From the music to the creative approach, I love every wet, slippery minute of it. (B-)


The Strangers: Prey at Night is as bad as it is good. Starting off as a generic trip into darkness, the sequel finds some shimmers of light in better writing, acting and direction as the film progresses. But ultimate, it isn’t enough to fully recommend horror heads pay full price for a ticket. If you have moviepass and you’re bored, go for it. But if not, I’d moviepass this one up.


Next: Stranger Danger: The Strangers Panel At HorrorHound Indy

Seen The Strangers: Prey at Night? Think it does the original justice? Let the other strangers know what you think in the comment section below.