<Todd>’s review published on Letterboxd:
"Why not?" - Dollface
Bored during quarantine so prepare yourself for some galaxy brain shit because I think the film is a commentary on slashers.
Oh you don't like this movie? How interesting. This is my tenth watch of The Strangers: Prey at Night so I'll write a slightly longer review to try to justify my obsession. For the record, I feel guilty for liking this movie. It is incredibly pandering and it feels like a mix tape and there is very little about it that is exceptional... YET YET YET this my tenth time watching it in like 2 years. Am I brain damaged? Maybe. Do I have poor taste? Perhaps. Am I secret genius who is actually right and everyone else is just a jealous hater? Also possible. I wanted to rate this lower than 4 stars out of guilt but I'm done hiding... I love this movie and by the way SPOILERS.
In The Strangers: Prey at Night a family is traveling to drop off the daughter at a board school when they stay the night in a trailer park retreat owned by distant relatives... then the strangers come and try to kill them. Unlike the prior Strangers, this film takes a more standard slasher approach that is very, very, very homagey. There are clear references to Tobe Hooper, John Carpenter, etc. and even some modern influences like Eli Roth in this movie. Unless you have watched a TON of horror it's likely you won't even realize just how much is homaged in this homage fest. While the first half hour is a little bland the dialogue advances the plot quickly enough to get to the final hour, which I sometimes fast forward to and watch while folding laundry.
But even the set up is pretty good actually... it's the sort of thing you notice more on the tenth watch. The cast is pretty solid down to the three masked figures who use great physicality to seem menacing on the screen. While the first half hour can be dry we are basically watching lambs set up for the slaughter. "Teenagers do stupid shit mom...I'm a teenager"... we never find out what she did, she just represents bad behavior or something that society deems unacceptable. We see her "smoke" cigarettes and wear a Ramones shirt and curse some but she doesn't seem that bad. She kind of represents the slasher genre.
I have a crazy theory that this movie is about attempts to kill the slasher genre and moving on and moving forward but the slasher genre saying "FUCK YOU...oh no not I... I will survive." The movie starts with visuals of where all of the carnage is going to occur and then slowly introduces you to four perfect victims that the strangers, who represent negativity toward the genre, are going to try to destroy. The reason I believe this is the case is that director Johannes Roberts is a weirdo, it all fits, and the use of homage and intense dedication to the 1980s is so overt and clearly planned that I believe there is something metaphorical about the approach. For example:
- Kill #1: The sacrifice- "Live it Up" by Mental as Anything
Early in the first part of the film the mom says "I look so tired" despite the fact that she is clearly beautiful. I posit that she represents the belief that slashers are tired and that people need to move on into new material. This is a somber situation because the mom recognizes that she used to be beautiful but doesn't even know she is beautiful now... in fact to me that's what make her beautiful. The mom sacrifices herself to save her daughter (hope). This is a move that has been made 10,000 times in horror films so I like that the film starts with this as it's first horror trope.
- Kill #2: The stuck as fuck motherfucker- "Cambodia" by Kim Wilde
"What are you doing?" "What are you doing?" "Whatever it is you are doing please stop." The dad represents horror fans that are stuck in their place and like The dad is stabbed as the line "the way we used to love, the way we used to laugh" is played over the radio. He is the death of people that can't let go of the past and make the way for better and more innovative horror. I love the way that you see the dad, stuck in the car, in side-frame and then Man in the Mask just appears in the background and slowly walks into focus. I love Martin Henderson's fear before he is killed. It is a great and subtle slasher kill that is well-executed and fun.
- "Kill" #3: The Brawl: "Total Eclipse of the Heart" by Bonnie Tyler
Luke, played brilliantly by Lewis Pullman, most clearly represents fans who love slasher but have too much fear to admit that they still love it. If someone comes for their shit... like Pin-up Girl and Man in the Mask do... they will fight and fight dirty. "I killed one of yours... how does that feel?" But let's not forget that Luke doesn't have the strength to finish the journey and he didn't have the strength to kill
I don't even think I have to argue for this "kill." Even people that hate this film tend to acknowledge that this is a pretty righteous kill. The brother, too scared to kill the strangers earlier, murders Pin-up Girl and then has to fight the man in the mask. The song is great but the neon is epic. This fight feels so awkward and real and that is what I like about it. There is no fancy choreography, just a fight happening the way you would expect it to. It reminds me of a scene in Rashomon... yes I went there. The blood slowly forming in the water as the Man walks away is perfect.
- Attempted Kill #4: The Final Girl- "Making Love out of Nothing at All" by Air Supply
Kinsey... is.... the... shit... she's the shit and she's the fan that says "FUCK YOU... slashers for life." She is the hope for slashers and the genre as a whole and I appreciate her for that. She can also scream like a motherfucker and wears a cool Ramones shirt. Let's not forget that she wanted the gun when Luke had it. She wants to tear shit up, find the negativity about slashers and confront it. She finally gets her chance to murderize in cold blood and then does it.
Her conflict with the man in the mask though is the final fight. With nothing left and as a song with the line "making love out of nothing at all" plays over the radio, she sets the negativity on fucking fire and when that doesn't work she kills him and escapes using one of the greatest tropes of all time, established by The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, perhaps the best horror film of all time. She escapes on a truck from the setting that is established in the first shot. She escapes on the back of the truck while laughing hysterically. The final scene, an homage to many hospital scenes, is another trope to indicate slashers will never truly be safe.
TLDR: Watch and love this movie or you are not a true fan haha
P.S. Any and all opposition you have to my theory is likely correct... good work!