The Strangers: Prey at Night ★★★


Trying to gage how much of my positive rating is from artificial inflation, simply because I didn’t absolutely hate this as I’d expected—the first installment is absolute rubbish, and Roberts didn’t exactly make a lasting impression with 47 METERS DOWN. However, I think this is actually pretty alright, from a standpoint of (mostly) schlocky, (mostly) mindless entertainment. There’s an abundance of “are you fucking kidding me”s, a quality hardly atypical for modern day horrors (like e.g. why someone wouldn’t immediately shoot the person who’s been butchering their family, or the exaggerated slowness of fleeing victims, etc.), but stepping back and viewing this through a scope of projected self-awareness, the nagging details become significantly less bothersome. And really, how can you not view this as an exercise in comingled throwback/homage + contemporary shlock? The milked-out slow zooms, the brutal close ups, the (unnecessarily) prolonged kill sequences, and the 1980s needle drops ; normally the shtick of mixing ironically poppy music with gruesome visual content would annoy me at this point because it’s been done to hell, but even that entry-level arthouse excursion is elevated by the way the killer himself scans the radio before doing the deed, simultaneously delaying the inevitable and adding a welcomed touch of *wink, wink*. And then the pool sequence, even as it wallows in all of its generally well-timed and eye-rolling absurdity, might be my biggest “guilty pleasure” scene of the year thus far. (For what it’s worth, this pool scene >>> the IT FOLLOWS pool scene.) Opening 20 minutes are a complete drag, as they often are with films of this ilk (or maybe that’s a Johannes thing—the prologue in 47 METERS DOWN was also a giant vat of crap), and if you’re not willing to embrace the purposely gaudy/flashy/showy essence, you’ll come out of this severely disappointed. It’s hardly a “horror,” really. It’s more of an awkwardly composed tone poem about the ugliness of violence and human nature, paradoxically adjoined with sleek and lustrous illustrations. Which is apparently fine by me.

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