'The Strangers: Prey at Night' Review: Dull, Pointless, Lazy
The best part about Strangers 2 is that it’s only eighty-five minutes long, eighty if you don’t count the five minutes of credits that you’re not going to sit through anyway. Which means the twenty minutes of ads and trailers were a full twenty percent of the viewing experience. That’s practically broadcast television proportions of advertising. I’d complain, but really the ads were the best part of the movie. Correction. The 20 minutes driving to and from the movie were the best part of the movie because it’s sunny out and I had a decent podcast to listen to.
Honestly, I’d rather review the relative pros and cons of each red light I stopped at than bother talking about the waste of time that was this movie. The left turn onto the freeway onramp was the worst because some jackhole truck driver screwed up the turn and blocked the intersection for a couple minutes. The left turn onto Virginia was the best because I can see the river from there, and it’s quite pretty as far as these things go.
Anyway a family of four goes to stay at a trailer park to have family time. And you thought your family vacations sucked, right? Then three masked killers show up and chase them around killing them one by one and getting killed themselves one by one. In the aftermath there’s the obligatory lazy callback teasing a sequel that no one gives a shit about.
I have seen a lot of shitty movies for Pajiba, which can be a lot of fun, because shitty movies are fun to rip apart. And while this might be a shitty movie, it commits a far worse crime than that. It’s a lazy movie. There’s no plot, no characterization, no creativity. Just a dull eighty-minute snuff film that might as well have been shot fully improvised in a week. The actors’ names have more syllables than it would take to describe what we learn about their characters. This review is definitely longer than the movie’s script as I am entirely unconvinced that there actually was a script.
Way back when in one of his nonfiction books about the genre, probably Danse Macabre, Stephen King talked a bit about his tactics in telling a horror story: “I recognize terror as the finest emotion and so I will try to terrorize the reader. But if I find that I cannot terrify, I will try to horrify, and if I find that I cannot horrify, I’ll go for the gross-out. I’m not proud.”
Those responsible for Strangers 2 could not even hit the third level, the cop out level of desperately evoking anything in the viewer whatsoever. They go through the motions with no spirit or joy at all. They inspire no thought, not even at a surface level. No images resonate, no actions spark emotion of any kind. It’s a movie you passively consume and it leaves no impression whatsoever on your psyche, neither positive nor negative, just a blank slate of having sat in the dark bored.
On some level, that makes it even worse than the disgusting entries in the torture porn genre of horror films. Because at least those have a soul, twisted and sadistic as it might be. They are looking evil right in its eyes, with a glee for the thrill of it that is thoroughly offputting. But this film is the dull-eyed evil itself. It’s the vacancy in the eyes of a teenage sociopath skinning a squirrel alive.
Evil can be stared down. Evil can be confronted. Evil can be understood, if not empathized with. This isn’t an examination of evil. It’s a shrug of apathy.
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