Why The Strangers: Prey at Night is a solid slasher and underrated sequel

Celebrities Visit Univision's "Despierta America"
Celebrities Visit Univision's "Despierta America" / Alexander Tamargo/GettyImages

Despite its lackluster reviews, The Strangers: Chapter 1 already out-grossed its budget and was a surprise box office hit this past weekend. The first in a planned trilogy, the film brought the homicidal home invaders back to the big screen. Yet, the feature is mostly a retread of the 2008 film and feels like little more than a set-up for the remaining two sequels. The underrated The Strangers: Prey at Night is a much more interesting film and an impressive slasher. Instead of rehashing the original, the 2018 movie tried to do something different and, in the process, included some gnarly set designs, grisly kills, and one heck of a final girl in Kinsey (Bailee Madison).

Warning: This article contains some major spoilers from The Strangers: Prey at Night.

The Strangers: Prey at Night is technically another home invasion film. However, instead of terrorizing a couple alone in the woods, the masked trio stalks a family on a road trip, who decides to stop at a trailer park to visit an elderly aunt and uncle. When they pull up, they discover that the trailer park is abandoned, and Aunt Sheryl (Mary Louise Casanta) and Uncle Marv (Ken Strunk) have been murdered. This occurs in the opening before the family of four ever arrives.

The fact that Dollface (Emma Bellomy), Man in the Mask (Damian Maffei), and Pinup (Lea Enslin) decide to torment a family raises the stakes. In fact, you get a sense that the entire family may not survive. The trio is unrelenting in this film and there's far more bloodshed compared to its predecessor. Again, director Johannes Roberts' film is far more of a slasher than a typical home invasion flick.

This film goes so hard to the point it kills off the family's matriarch and patriarch, Cindy (Christina Hendricks) and Mike (Martin Henderson). When this occurs, especially Cindy's bloodcurdling death, you get the sense that no one is safe. Both deaths are quite gruesome and prolonged. You don't expect mom and dad to die, and their demise thwarts a viewer's expectations about which characters are safe.

After Cindy and Mike's deaths, that leaves the kids to fend for themselves, Luke (Lewis Pullman) and Kinsey. While Luke is an alright Final Boy, it's Kinsey who shines in the film's last act. She's a totally underrated Final Girl and my favorite part of this film. By the last 15 minutes, she goes toe to toe with the Man in the Mask, eventually burning him alive in his truck. However, because this is a slasher, he survives a little longer, chasing her and wielding his axe, until she climbs in the back of a pick-up truck and escapes his grasp one last time.

It's an awesome nod to the conclusion of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, when Sally (Marilyn Burns) escapes in the back of a truck, laughing manically, covered in blood. Even more so, Kinsey has quite an impressive character arc. While she's a bit shy and timid early in the film, she becomes a competent hero by the time the credits roll. In fact, if not for her, Luke likely would have died.

Bailee Madison
Celebrities Visit Univision's "Despierta America" / Alexander Tamargo/GettyImages

Besides Prey at Night's impressive Final Girl, the film contains some chilling set designs. There's just something creepy about an empty trailer park, complete with fog and a nearby dense forest. This film somewhat takes the masked murderers out of a single home and sets them in a spectacularly eerie setting. It works, especially some of the chase sequences. The pool scene involving the Man in the Mask, Luke, and Kinsey is nail-biting and true edge-of-your-seat suspense. It's one of my favorite scenes in any recent slasher.

The Strangers: Prey at Night wasn't afraid to take risks. It veered in tone from the 2008 film and, in doing so, gave us one of the strongest slasher movies in recent memory and one of my favorite recent final girls, Kinsey. The sequel's trailer park setting is downright spooky, establishing a gothic tone that's a cool contrast to the film's more blood-soaked sequences. If you skipped Prey at Night initially, give it a chance. The film is currently streaming on Max.

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