The Strangers: Prey at Night ★★★½

I really like the original Strangers film. I find it to be a very suspenseful film that revels in the ugly nature of such an attack. It lingers uncomfortably, it forces you to watch as these people are terrorized, and the bleakness of it all works in its favor for me. This decade later sequel is unrelated but takes the same idea and approach. What really makes this film more than just another home invasion flick is the fact that it isn't a home invasion flick. This is a slasher movie.

The film opens up the setting by taking place in a trailer park and allowing the cast (both killer and prey) open roam. It adds a terrific dynamic where you really don't know where the killers will come from next. It's a smart move because there isn't too much room for variance in a single setting, home invasion film. This film also adds its own flavor by taking on the slasher influence directly by incorporating 80s motifs. This doesn't operate as pure homage or nostalgia bait; it has the director using camera and lighting techniques from that time period, it has him using familiar language to try and present a unique spin (not quite subversion but it tried to get there). It uses 80s pop music not as part of the soundtrack to infuse nostalgia but rather as the killers' calling card. This makes it so when we hear these nostalgic tunes we are no longer filled with familiarity, or possibly joy, but dread. It uses our familiarity to prey upon our senses. It's a very effective tool that I don't think I've seen before in quite this specific a manner.

The visual style of the film is also uniquely its own. It uses old techniques, yes, but the combination of the multiple techniques wholly belongs to this film. However it doesn't work most of the time. A half split-diopter here, a fast zoom there, a close up to mask background activity sprinkled throughout...it's used to excess and really grew tiresome. However, it is because it found its own style through these combinations and stuck with it that we get the best setpieces. See, while the style doesn't work most of the time, when it does work holy fuck does it work and holy shit is it incredible. The pool scene validates every decision made, every clunky piece of dialogue, every groan inducing cliche...the pool scene is an all timer. I forgive everything because of it. It is beautiful, unexpected, haunting, thrilling, engaging, it is the perfect scene. Then the finale comes and it is also fucking perfect. Everything clicks and the film runs with it and holy shit are the final 30 minutes worth everything.

Bonus points for having the best Texas Chainsaw Massacre visual reference that I can think of in recent memory off the top of my head that isn't a 1:1 rip.

It's not a great horror film but what it nails make this worth recommending to everyone and not shutting up about until others get to experience exactly what it nails down perfectly.

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