‘The Strangers: Prey at Night’ Slashes Sequel Fatigue

In 2008 three masked killers terrorized a couple locked inside their rural farmhouse in “The Strangers.” Why? Because they were home. The random attack served as a chilling reminder that no one is safe, not even in the comfort of their own home. The result: a cult-hit grossing $80 million worldwide, launching Halloween costumes, and horror convention favorites. The final moments of the film saw the titular killers citing that it would be easier next time. Now, after a decade of development hell, a studio bankruptcy, and a leaked script, the masked killers finally return in the long-awaited sequel, “The Strangers: Prey at Night.”

On the road to drop off their wayward daughter Kinsey (Bailee Madison) at a reform school, a family decides to shack up for the night at a desolate trailer park. Oddly enough, the other occupants of the trailer park have headed south for the winter. A strange explanation for the deserted locale, but it will have to suffice.

Rounding out the family is mother, Cindy (“Mad Men’s” Christina Hendricks), father, Mike (Martin Henderson), and Luke (Lewis Pullman). Thinking it will simply be a quiet night in the trailer lent out by Cindy’s relative, the family receives a concerning knock on the door from a stranger. As the night progresses, the family soon realizes that it will be a fight for survival as the knife-wielding strangers, dawning eerie masks, have far more sinister plans in store.

Director Johannes Roberts, who helmed the entertaining summer sleeper shark-hit “47 Meters Down,” brings his popcorn sensibility to the forefront in “Prey at Night.” Similar to his previous work, Roberts combines a lofty mixture of tension and swift pacing. It doesn’t take long for the action to start rolling, and once it picks up, the film doesn’t let up until the final moments. Roberts utilizes the camera to serve up eye-catching visuals with bouts of homage paid to slasher classics including “Friday the 13th” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” – slow zoom and sun flare heavily included. The high point in visual aesthetic hits at the motel pool, where multicolored lights illuminate the screen.

Tonally, the sequel is revived with high-octane energy – a stark opposition to the dark and somber aesthetic of the original film. At its biggest downfall, the script penned by Bryan Bertino, who performed as the writer-director on the first film, rehashes many of the same troupes laid out in the previous venture. However, Roberts’ direction adds a rejuvenated coat in order to make the sequel standout efficiently. It is possible to point out logical flaws in the clichéd slasher story, but the presentation makes the film an entertaining theatrical ride.

The horror genre has been primarily populated with supernatural ghost tales and zombie apocalypses for much of the post-“Paranormal Activity” era. However, with last falls enjoyable “Happy Death Day,” which ranked up over $100 million in its October release date, the forthcoming “Halloween” reboot, and the entertaining, albeit shallow, thrill ride of “The Strangers: Prey at Night,” the comeback of the slasher appears to be on the horizon.

The Strangers: Prey at Night” opens March 9 in theaters nationwide.