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Siraj Syed


Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 

 

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The Strangers--Prey at Night, Review: “Why kill strangers?” “Why not?”

The Strangers--Prey at Night, Review: “Why kill strangers?” “Why not?”

They last preyed on innocents in 2008. Since then, families must have been praying that they do not return. No such luck. A sequel was taking shape since 2012, and Prey at Night saw light of day in 2018. Writer-director of the original, Bryan Bertino is only a co-writer this time round, the three murderers are the same, and so is the quest for Tamara. The rest is new. Is unmotivated mayhem and psychopathic killing of strangers a tenable premise for making a film? Is a sequel to such a film warranted and wanted? Rhetorical questions, since both films have already been made and released.

In a secluded trailer park, three masked killers from the original movie—Dollface, Pin Up Girl, and the Man in the Mask—arrive and park their truck in front of a random trailer. Dollface wakes one of the sleeping occupants by banging on the door, and when she goes to check who is making the noise, she sees the truck parked outside, and 80s pop music blaring out from it. As she turns around, she sees the silhouette of Dollface, standing in the corner. Dollface kills her off-screen and goes to the bedroom to lie down in bed, next to the sleeping husband.

Mike and Cindy, their son Luke, and their rebellious daughter, Kinsey, take a family trip to their aunt and uncle's trailer park, to spend time together as a family, before Kinsey leaves for boarding school. Cindy calls Uncle Marv and leaves a voicemail, informing him that they are running late. They arrive, find a note and keys left for them, and go to their trailer. As they are settling in the smallish trailer, they hear a knock at the door. Cindy answers the door to find Dollface—unmasked, but hiding in the shadows. She asks if Tamara is home. Cindy informs her she is at the wrong trailer, and Dollface leaves.

As the family sits down to play cards and implores Kinsey to stop listening to music on her mobile phone, and join them, Kinsey storms out. Cindy sends Luke after her to try and reach out. Kinsey finds her smoking. As Kinsey and Luke wander around the park, they stumble upon a trailer, with the door wide open. On a hunch, they decide to check it out. Inside, they find their aunt and uncle, brutally murdered.

Back at the family trailer, Dollface arrives again, to inquire about Tamara, and after turning her away, Mike watches as she disappears into the woods. Mike and Cindy decide to go find the kids, whom they find in a hysterical state. Mike sends Cindy and Kinsey back to the trailer and follows Luke, to find the bodies. Cindy and Kinsey return to the trailer and find their cell phones destroyed, and Dollface waiting for them inside. Dollface threatens them with a large kitchen knife, and the two retreat to the bathroom. As Cindy helps Kinsey climb through the skylight, Dollface breaks into the bathroom and ...

Bryan Bertino (The Strangers, Mockingbird, The Monster) and Ben Ketai (30 Days of Night: Dark Days)’s script gets off to a slow start. As the film progresses, the shocks and the gore rise proportionately. No logic is required, since the killers are psychopaths. They don’t just kill—like torturers in spy tales, they play with their prey, before handing them a brutal, bloody death. Almost invincible, the three work both alone or in tandem, but not as a trio. Strangely, the two survivors are unaffected by the death of a ‘comrade’ at the hands of one of their intended victims.

After the dual murder right in the beginning, the next couple of scenes are about family issues and teenage angst, and strike you as another film about American maladjusted families. Nothing comes of it, though. Likewise, there is no explanation of the killings and what drives the ungodly. All you have is the million dollar line towards the end, from one of the dastards: Why not? This leads us to believe that the theory being propounded here is: if you can kill, why shouldn’t you? Not a philosophy that the world needs today, on any day, for that matter. We have enough motivated killings happening every day across the globe. If they are to be complemented by un-motivated murders, what will it lead to? In that sense, The Strangers-Prey at Night is a subversive, dangerous exercise.

British Director Johannes Roberts (47 Meters Down, The Other Side of the Door, Storage 24) has the luxury of established villains and the freedom from justifying any of their appearances, actions and omnipresence. What more could the director of a horror film want. He does not even require special effects, VFX or CGI, as the crazy three are humans wearing masks. Yes, there are chilling scenes, and the length is short enough to retain the fear factor. On the net, the duration is specified as 85 minutes. I guess the Indian censors have chopped some 10 minutes, making it 75 minutes, which barely qualifies as a feature length. By Indian standards, the blood-letting left untouched is gory enough, including a throat-slitting shot.

In his cast are Christina Hendricks (Zoolander 2, The Neon Demon, Bad Santa 2), Martin Henderson (New Zealander; Devil's Knot, Everest, Miracles from Heaven), Bailee Madison (Holiday, The Night Before Halloween, A Cowgirl's Story) and Lewis Pullman (Battle of the Sexes, Aftermath, Lean on Pete), who constitute the family. Their transition from a reflective family discussion into a terrified unit, trying hard to protect each other from the triumvirate devil has been well-enacted. Emma Bellomy as Dollface, Damian Maffei as Man in the Mask and Lea Enslin as Pin-Up Girl play the masked menaces. There are barely half a dozen others, and they have just one or two shot scenes.

Music by Adrian Johnston is not the usual spooky, prescient kind, while it gdoes create ominous foreboding, nevertheless.

I would not really recommend that you watch The Strangers—Prey at Night. But if that is how you get your kicks, pray why not?

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNQrKls7k-Q

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.


Bandra West, Mumbai

India



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