Stephen Robert Smith’s review published on Letterboxd:
The release of Bryan Bertino's 'The Strangers' was met with quite favourable reviews and a massive box office success (considering budget size) which of course lead to immediate talks of a sequel. This urgency to produce a follow-up let to ten years of re-writes and delays until 'Prey at Night' finally hit the screens.
Director Johannes Roberts' previous works range from brilliant,'F' (2010) to good, '47 Meters Down' (2017) to completely terrible, 'The Other Side of the Door (2016). So it's a little hard to predict where his newest outing would fall in his spectrum of quality. 'The Strangers: Prey at Night' is a massive departure stylistically from it's predecessor, 'The Strangers' was a slower melodic thriller that added horror elements throughout the building tension. Roberts has flipped this theme on it's head and decided to switch the slower pace to a more conventional slasher type romp. His style definitely fits this type of film-making resulting in some beautiful shots, great sounds and bloody gore.
The first thing you notice about 'The Strangers: Prey at Night' is the wonderful soundtrack, its without doubt a very bold choice to incorporate the 80's style synthpop but it tends to work, given it a little more of a character than first expected. Marry this together with the abandoned trailer park, the fog and neon lighting it's very reminiscent of Carpenter. That's not to say this is any where near the same level of one of the best horror directors ever, but his influence is clear to see. Other genre greats can also be seen throughout the film both Hooper (the truck ending) and Craven (the Hendricks scene) are just two that can be mentioned. It's never a bad thing to credit to what came before, but sometimes it comes a little too close to rip-off as it doesn't quite fit the narrative it's just thrown into the mix. The pool scene is a perfect example of how to blend these influences together mixing in your own style, this created probably the best scene in the entire movie. It was truly gorgeous looking and showed what Roberts' is capable of. The good amount of action and the well presented atmospheric shots help carry 'Prey at Night' to a slightly higher standard of entertainment and enjoyment, without this it would've suffered much more.
The acting was probably towards the higher end of the scale when it comes to a film of this type, their talents are clear but they aren't exactly helped with developed characters. The films big problem is that it focused on the least interesting characters, this could've been resolved by ether switching roles around of adding a bit more depth to what was already there. Bailee Madison is a fine job in the role but it was hard to fully commit to her as the film didn't have the courage to do the same. The family dynamic could've been lent on a little more, it started off well and hints were given to what was happening but once again the non committal tendency of the movie powered up again in favour of rushing through the horror/action beats.
'Prey at Night' really didn't know when to end, instead dragging the last few scenes through nearly every stereotypical horror movie finale. This certainly lead the film to end on a bit of a bum note, and considering the quite shot run time felt like this was done just to add a few more minutes onto the end.
It's been a long time since viewing the original so it's a little hard when it comes to comparing the two and rating them, I do remember something being incredibly unhinging about the premise and the way these 'killers' are presented and directed. 'Prey at Night' takes a more traditional route with the subject matter and for the most part makes to work in it's favour. The direction is stylish, the villains are creepy and there's enough entertainment, scares and action to carry through to the end, it's just not very memorable or ambitious. It didn't do much to build on the foundations of the first and ended up falling into a number of horror cliches. Throwing away most of what the original did and re-imagined the killers as near unstoppable creatures took away from the terror and realism that the first did so well, instead making them more run of the mill.
Maybe worth another watch before passing total judgement, there's definitely a lot to like and much more that can be picked apart. Probably not the best to pair this with the first and see this as a spirited sequel at best.