To start off, I must admit that I was not aware that the film was a sequel coming out 10 years after its predecessor. Starring Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman, the 2008 horror film The Strangers follows a couple’s dream vacation turned into a nightmare when a trio of masked murderers join their stay… and yes, it is based on a “true story.”
Now, you do not need to watch the first one to get what is going on —the sequel does a decent job establishing what is happening without resorting to reference the original. After all, the protagonists in this new chapter of The Strangers find themselves in a similar situation than the previous ones —a family tries to spend a vacation together up in a trailer park in the woods, when they find their holiday interrupted by the same trio of masked assailants.
The Strangers: Prey at Night is directed by Johannes Roberts (47 Meters Down), who took over after Bryan Bertino (The Monster) left the directorial chair after writing the script for the sequel. Johannes did a splendid job setting the pace and beats of the film, which moves at a fast pace, rather than dragging out on the slasher horror. This certainly helps when you consider that these types of film do not always work with a slow pace and need that push, even during moments when things are supposed to be “calm.”
The plot is rather predictable, and if you stop thinking (a.k.a. ignore the holes and contradictions) you can enjoy most of it.
As for the cast, the performances were decent; I would not say that they were the best part of the film either. It was a nice surprise to see Christina Hendricks, from Mad Men fame, playing the mother, Cindy. Her appearance is rather brief, which was a letdown, considering that she was probably the most recognizable member of the ensemble. Joining her were Bailee Madison (Bridge to Terabithia) ¸Martin Henderson (Grey’s Anatomy) and Lewis Pullman (Battle of the Sexes). Not a lot is left to be said about the family, as their dynamics were not as interesting or developed like they could/should have been. Only the siblings (Madison and Pullman) had the most investment, and it still came off as dull, mostly because both performers did not genuinely have chemistry. The same happened with Hendricks and Henderson —when you see them together, there is no spark like the dialogue suggests there is.
Overall, it is a decent horror film, the kind that you can watch once. The plot is rather predictable, and if you stop thinking (a.k.a. ignore the holes and contradictions) you can enjoy most of it. The soundtrack was actually good, and hearing the choices from Air Supply to Bonnie Tyler was refreshing for the genre.
As for the “true story” part, I was surprised when I looked it up and found out that this is supposed to be based on the Manson Family Murders. The movie does not really have elements from the real-life horror, beside the “cultish” killers. If you are looking for a re-telling of these crimes, it is better to wait for the upcoming Quentin Tarantino movie.