An Average Movie-Goer’s Review
Spoilers! If you don’t want spoilers – check out the Spoiler-Free post
I love horror movies and if I’m going to watch them anyway, why not write an entertaining/funny review from the POV of an average movie-goer and not a professional critic.
Today we’re looking at 2018’s The Strangers: Prey at Night
Sometimes just called The Strangers 2, The Strangers: Prey at Night is obviously a sequel to The Strangers, one of my first reviews! You can read that here.
During a stop on a road trip, a family of four is stalked by a trio of serial killers at an isolated trailer park and must fight back in the dead of night to survive.
Is it Scary?
There are some extremely effective jump scares in The Strangers: Prey at Night but they are few and far between. Unfortunately the film is also not as scary or suspenseful as the original but that doesn’t mean the movie is a bad choice for a horror movie watch. But, if you’re staying at an isolated trailer park home, you’ll definitely be a bit terrified.
The movie opens on a lonely dark road. In the corner of the screen we see “Based on true events.” Spoiler: it’s not actually based on true events. Like the first movie which tries really hard to make you believe the event’s actually happened, this movie also never happened and were made up by a screenwriter. At least this movie barely tries compared to the first movie’s full screen text.
We next see a truck with the silhouettes of three people inside drive up the road and pull up to a trailer home. Cutting to the inside, an elderly couple is asleep with a dog at the foot of the bed, when the wife is woken up by banging on the front door. Going to check she sees the truck outside now empty.
She locks the door (why wasn’t it already locked?!) and then hears the knocking coming from inside the home! She turns around and sees and intruder. Since the last movie I’ve learned the names of the killers, this one is Dollface.
It’s implied Dollface kills the woman but, I guess, she didn’t scream since we next see Dollface get in the bed next to the dog and husband who is still asleep.
A title screen fades in and we fade out to our main characters. Mike, the father (played by Martin Henderson) packs his daughter Kinsey’s (played by Bailee Madison) things into the car. Inside the house, we see there’s some tension between the mother, Cindy (played by Christina Hendricks) and Kinsey.
It appears as if the family is taking Kinsey somewhere she doesn’t want to go to. We also learn they have another kid, Luke (played by Lewis Pullman) who is playing baseball somewhere despite Mike stating they’re already late. Weird that Luke would not already be home despite it appearing like this trip is a big deal but I guess it’s supposed to show that the family isn’t the closest.
During the drive we learn Kinsey is being sent to boarding school because she has been a problem child for the last year though we don’t learn what exactly she did. Will it be a big twist , will it be something crucial to the plot, or will it be a large part of her character arc?
We also learn the family will be spending the night at Gatlin Lake where Cindy’s uncle runs the trailer home rental business in the area.
That night the family arrive at the lake, a large spacious trailer park that is currently empty since it’s the off-season. It’s also the same place where the movie started… DUN DUN DUNNN.
The family drive up to the office where Uncle Marv has left Cindy a key with a note that they’ll see them in the morning. The family see no other people in the area but don’t find this strange since Cindy says a lot of people leave after Labor Day… or they’ve been murdered!
At the trailer the family settle in but almost immediately get a knock on the door. Thinking it’s Uncle Marvin, Cindy opens the door and sees Dollface hidden in the dark asking for Tamara. Just like the first movie!
Cindy tells her she has the wrong trailer and Dollface leaves. Cindy and Mike try to have the whole family bond but Kinsey refuses. They could have bonded at home but Cindy is shipping Kinsey off for her… theft?… destruction of property?
Mike tries to convince her and we learn she’s been cutting class and getting bad grades. Is that the reason they’re sending her to boarding school? There’s gotta something more serious right? Did she get expelled? Did she hurt someone? Attempted murder?
Anyway, Kinsey gets fed up and leaves the trailer. Cindy then asks Luke to find her and talk to her, hoping that she’ll at least talk to her brother. Luke finds Kinsey but their conversation doesn’t amount to anything and she walks away. He goes after her and neither one notices Dollface watching them from a distance.
Back at the trailer, Cindy and Mike get another knock on their door and unsurprisingly it’s Dollface looking for Tamara again. After Mike asks if she’s lost she runs away. Weirded out the two decide to look for their kids.
Walking along the trail, Kinsey and Luke find an open trailer and decide to investigate. After finding some alcohol, they hear a bang coming from the room at the far end of the trailer. They open the door and in a jump scare it’s revealed to be a dog. The same dog from the trailer in the beginning of the movie so guess what else is in this trailer.
The two are relieved it was just a dog but then get a whiff of something rancid. Luke checks the window and sees the word “hello” scribbled in lipstick all over it. Kinsey notices something on the bed covered in a bed sheet and removes it. Through the reflection in the window we see the sheet was covering the dead couple from the beginning of the movie.
The two freak out and run out of the trailer but get lost. Luckily they run into their parents and they tell them (and us) the dead couple they found was uncle Marvin and his wife. Mike instructs Cindy to take Kinsey back to the trailer and call the police while he tells Luke to bring him to the trailer.
At the trailer Cindy and Kinsey find out someone has broken in and destroyed their phones. Tip: if you have a portable phone, take it with you. Cindy is able to get one phone to turn on but when attempting to call 911 the call breaks up. Kinsey then turns around and sees Dollface in still in the trailer.
Cindy goes for the drawer to find a knife but Dollface has already taken them and brandishes her own knife. Cindy and Kinsey run into the bathroom and lock the door as Dollface gives chase. The two spot a roof window as Dollface plays music and starts breaking down the door.
Kinsey is able to get out but when turning to help her mom, Dollface busts in and stabs Cindy in the back killing her.
At uncle Marv’s trailer, Luke and Mike arrive and enter so Mike can confirm the deaths because you should never trust your kids apparently. After he sees the bodies he tries the landline but it’s been cut. The two hear a loud bang outside and duck to the floor.
Someone then throws a rock through the window but when Mike looks outside there’s no one there. He tells Luke they’re going to run back to their trailer and not stop until they get back to the others. Luke agrees but before he can leave the trailer he spots Baghead standing outside with an axe.
Mike closes and locks the door and remembers Marv used to keep a gun in the closet. Finding it, he loads it and yells out to Baghead that if he doesn’t leave he’ll shoot. At the end of his count he opens the door to find Baghead gone.
The two run back to their trailer where Mike sees a dead Cindy but stops Luke from seeing her. The two run to the car in order to drive around and search for Kinsey. As they drive, Baghead throws a cinderblock at their windshield causing the car to crash and the two to get knocked out.
Meanwhile Kinsey is still running from Dollface and comes across Baghead in a truck. Did he teleport? Running from him she hides in a nearby playground tube and yells out to Baghead to leave her alone. In an effective jump scare, our final killer, Pin-up girl, appears and tells Kinsey “but we’ve just started.”
Kinsey runs out of the tube and we cut back to Mike and Luke who has woken up from the crash. Luke wakes up his dad and they realize Mike’s been impaled by a large piece of wood. Unable to move, Mike tells Luke to take the gun and find Kinsey.
After Luke leaves, Baghead appears and gets in the car. He turns on the radio, reveals an ice pick, and stabs a begging Mike in the throat, killing him.
We next see Kinsey run into another trailer and hide until she hears the sound of a jack-in-the-box coming from the bedroom. Why would she go investigate a creepy toy that requires human intervention to start knowing that there are at least 3 killers after her?
No idea but she pays the price when Dollface appears from under a blanket nearby, cuts Kinsey’s arm, and stabs her in the leg. As she goes for another stab, Luke appears and points the gun at Dollface demanding she let Kinsey go.
After he grabs Kinsey, Luke instructs Dollface to drop her knife and then DOESN’T shoot her. Earlier when Mike first grabbed the gun, Luke did appear to be worried about actually shooting Baghead but that was before he found out his mom had been killed so why the hesitation?
Dollface taunts Luke about his hesitation. Kinsey yells at him to shoot and even offers to shoot her herself making me think she’s used a gun before. Did she kill someone? Is that why she’s being sent to boarding school?! Unfortunately the square Luke just pushes Kinsey out of the trailer and they run.
Luke and Kinsey find another empty trailer and climb through a window. Luke puts the gun down on a nearby table and patches Kinsey up. They formulate a plan to get to the office cabin and use the main landline to call the police. Just as they agree to this, Baghead drives his truck into the trailer breaking down the wall in front of them.
The two jump out of a window WITHOUT the gun since it’s now under rubble and they run. Due to Kinsey’s injuries, Luke tells her to hide under a porch as he’ll be able to reach the office/store much quicker without her.
At the office Luke is able to call the police but before he can tell them his location the phone line is cut. He then hears the backdoor open and grabs a golf club as a weapon. Walking through the aisles he doesn’t see Pin-Up girl behind him but jumps back when Baghead appears outside.
Finally seeing Pin-Up girl, Luke runs through the backdoor leading to a large pool where the lights are turned on and “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler starts to play.
Pin-Up girl appears and runs full sprint with knife in hand towards Luke but he sees her and knocks her out with the golf club. In a smart choice for a horror movie, Luke pushes away her knife before he approaches her.
This works out when she wakes up and tries to grab him but he is able to overpower her and , in another smart move, he grabs her knife and stabs her repeatedly, killing her.
Baghead with axe in hand, walks in on the scene and is taunted by Luke who asks how it feels to lose one of his. Baghead swings at Luke multiple times but misses each time as Luke falls into the pool. Luke is able to grab the axe and drag Baghead into the pool with him.
With Pin-Up Girl’s knife still in hand Luke struggles with Baghead under water until he drops the knife. He swims up to the surface and attempts to get out of the pool but Baghead grabs the knife, catches up, and stabs him in the back.
Baghead leaves Luke bleeding out and flailing in the water as “Total Eclipse of the Heart” starts to fade out. Kinsey arrives and drags a still alive Luke out of the pool and hides him in a corner. She tells him she has to go find help and leaves him alone.
Running towards the road she falls as a truck that looks like Baghead’s approaches her but it’s revealed to be an officer’s truck. He gets out and helps Kinsey up as she starts to tell him the situation. Neither of them notice Dollface running up to them from behind until it’s too late. Peripheral vision? What’s that?
Dollface slices his throat open and Kinsey runs into the truck but quickly realizes the keys are missing. Turns out Dollface now has them and taunts Kinsey before she unlocks the truck. Luckily for Kinsey, she sees a shotgun and is able to remove it from the rack just as Dollface starts to enter.
Dollface cuts Kinsey’s hand but she is still able to point the gun at her and without hesitation she shoots. You see Luke?! The shot throws Dollface out of the car and Kinsey follows after her removing her mask. She then asks Dollface why they’re doing this and Dollface smiles simply saying “Why not?”
Kinsey pumps the shotgun again and kills Dollface and that seems like a perfect reason for why not..
Kinsey grabs the keys and gets into the car breaking down acting like she’s never killed before. She starts the car but is then rammed from behind by Baghead. With the truck now refusing to start, Baghead drives around and rams into the truck again throwing Kinsey from the car.
Kinsey gets up and sees Baghead’s truck is jammed into the cop’s truck which is now spilling gasoline. She the pulls out her lighter and tosses it on the gasoline causing both trucks to explode.
Kinsey walks away from the explosion and doesn’t see Baghead’s on fire truck drive directly towards her. As it gets closer she finally realizes it and starts to run towards a small narrow bridge which is just a really bad choice when there’s an on-fire truck behind you.
In the most common horror trope she falls and starts to crawl from the truck. Baghead exits the truck with his axe and we see that he is in really bad shape. The explosion and fire has burned off some of his mask and skin and he’s been impaled by a large piece of glass.
Baghead pulls out the glass, falls to the ground, and seemingly dies in front of Kinsey.
Kinsey walks out into another road and stops an oncoming truck (does everyone just have trucks?). A women and her baseball playing son exit to help Kinsey but run back to the truck when Baghead reappears.
Baghead misses with his axe and Kinsey jumps on the back of the truck screaming for them to drive. Baghead also grabs onto the truck swinging wildly, think the ending of Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Kinsey grabs a bat and swings at Baghead striking him on the head and knocking him off the truck, killing him.
We cut to a little bit later and see Kinsey in the hospital with Luke who is still alive. The film ends as she grabs some water and hears the same Jack-in-the-box sound as earlier in the movie. There’s then a pretty ominous knock at the door and Kinsey drops her cup of water on the floor.
What Happened in the End?
The ending tries to imply that the killers or at least Baghead is still alive but he’s totally dead. Sure it’s a horror movie so they can always hand wave the death away but in the context of this movie Baghead was clearly very dead after getting struck in the head with the bat.
Director Johannes Roberts confirmed in an interview that the sound of the jack in the box was in Kinsey’s head and the intent was to showcase her PTSD from the ordeal. But, Roberts also stated it’s up to the audience’s interpretation as well. Interestingly there was a scene shot where Baghead is still alive and shows up in the hospital.
In an interview with bloody-flicks.co.uk the actor playing Baghead, Damian Maffei, describes the scene. After Kinsey drops her cup of water, a doctor enters the room surprised that Kinsey is up and about. Suddenly a crazed looking Baghead impales him with his axe. There’s then a freeze frame and the film ends.
Where the original was a suspenseful slow burn, The Strangers: Prey at Night feels fast pace and almost action-y. You would think this would ruin the established serial killer’s motif but it actually works really well. The killers still stalk their prey and randomly show up with almost teleport-like powers but their antics are a bit bigger, like running a truck through a trailer home.
Director Johannes Roberts also does a good job getting and setting up some great shots/visuals, the explosion at the end, Kinsey running from the truck, and the entire Luke versus Pin-Up Girl and Baghead sequence. That Luke sequence is definitely one of my favorite action-y suspenseful scenes that I’ve seen in awhile… horror movie-wise.
Now is it a perfect movie? Nah, the acting/dialogue is a bit over the top at times, the killers appear to teleport around, characters make some dumb decisions, and we never find out what Kinsley did. Just feels weird to leave out such a big character piece of backstory. None of this ruins the movie but it’s also something you definitely notice.
Either way The Stranger: Prey at Night is a definite recommend in my book if you’re looking for a slasher that feels like a throwback to the 80’s slashers with a bit more action.
Also, I promise I didn’t do this on purpose, but this is the 3rd Johannes Roberts film I’ve reviewed. You can read those reviews here, 47 Meters Down Explained, and Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City.