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‘The Strangers: Prey at Night’ review: Banal horror sequel

Lea Enslin, left, Damian Maffei and Emma Bellomy

Lea Enslin, left, Damian Maffei and Emma Bellomy are masked killers in "The Strangers: Prey at Night." Photo Credit: Aviron Pictures / Brian Douglas

PLOT Three killers terrorize a family.

CAST Christina Hendricks, Bailee Madison, Lewis Pullman



BOTTOM LINE A slight improvement over the 2008 original, which is not saying much.

Ten years ago, Bryan Bertino’s “The Strangers” told the story of three masked psychotics who break into an isolated home and torment the occupants (Scott Speedman and Liv Tyler) before finally killing them. “The Strangers” delivered a couple of shivery moments in its 90-minute running time, but, because it offered little more than the sight of suffering and death, it felt dreary and dispiriting. It almost qualified as a new subgenre: bummer-horror.

The sequel, “The Strangers: Prey at Night,” arrives with a new home to invade, new victims to gut and the same masked killers (played by different actors). Though slightly more compelling than the original thanks to something resembling characters, “Prey at Night” mostly proves that its basic premise remains enduringly, stubbornly uninteresting.

“Prey at Night” introduces us to a suburban family of four: dad and mom (Martin Henderson as Mike and an underused Christina Hendricks as Cindy), plus punky daughter Kinsey (Bailee Madison, of Hallmark Channel’s “Good Witch”) and sporty son Luke (Lewis Pullman, son of the actor Bill Pullman). They’re on a road trip that includes a visit to Uncle Marv, who lives in a remote trailer park. Actually, he’s no longer living, as the kids discover when they enter his stench-filled trailer. And then the trouble begins.

“Prey at Night,” like its predecessor, borrows from several horror classics (“The Hills Have Eyes,” “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and, inexorably, “Halloween”) but refuses to add anything new. The three masked figures, credited as Pin-Up Girl, Dollface and The Man in the Mask (I prefer to call him Burlap Bro), have no personalities, no identifiable M.O., no known motivation. When one killer is asked why she’s doing all this, she answers, “Why not?” It’s supposed to be a chilling line, but it rings hollow. (The bare-bones screenplay is by Ben Ketai and Bertino.)

New director Johannes Roberts tries to liven things up with a bit of stylish camerawork (a bloody scene in a swimming pool is his coup de grace) and the ironic use of pop songs (Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” gets pride of place). None of it helps; the material is just too banal. If you want to see a few stabbings, though, here’s your movie.


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