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The Strangers: Prey at Night

As blood flows freely in the belated sequel to the 2008 horror thriller The Strangers, one victim tearfully pleads with her masked attacker to justify their desire to kill. "Why not?" coldly responds the assailant. Those words would surely tumble from the lips of director Johannes Roberts to explain why he felt it was necessary to return to this gruesome, blood-smeared milieu a whole decade after the original film drew chilling inspiration from true events to send occasional shivers down the spine. The Strangers: Prey At Night makes no pretence at originality or invention, pitting two desperate parents and their children against a trio of merciless maniacs, who conceal their true identities behind creepy masks. Like all horror film boogeymen, these aggressors possess an astonishing ability to withstand every bone-crunching blow and petrol-soaked inferno their terrified targets can dole out in the name of survival, reanimating when characters least expect it to claim another victim. In a short but certainly not sweet prologue set to the infectious beat of Kim Wilde's 1981 anthem Kids In America, three masked assailants - Dollface (Emma Bellomy), Man in the Mask (Damian Maffei) and Pin-Up (Lea Enslin) - stage a night-time attack on an elderly couple in their trailer. Soon after, married couple Cindy (Christina Hendricks) and Mike (Martin Henderson) arrive at the same trailer park under the cloak of darkness with their son Luke (Lewis Pullman) and belligerent teenage daughter Kinsey (Bailee Madison). The parents hope to spend precious time with their children before Kinsey goes to boarding school but the daughter is in no mood to play happy families. "Now it will just be the three of you again," she snarls, barely containing her tears and rage, "like it used to be." Kinsey storms off and Luke hurriedly follows in the hope he can placate his sister. Instead, the siblings stumble upon the horrific tableau of Dollface, Man in the Mask and Pin-Up's slaughter and surmise that their clan is in grave danger. Before the terrified children can raise the alarm, Cindy and Mike answer a knock at the door from a girl in the shadows, who claims to be looking for her friend Tamara... The Strangers: Prey At Night trundles relentlessly from one brutal skirmish to the next, stitching together set pieces with perfunctory scenes of family bonding. Hendricks and Henderson perfect their looks of stoicism and parental defiance in the face of certain death at the hands of psychopaths, who are roughly the same age as Kinsey and Luke. The script penned by Ben Katai and Bryan Bertino, who wrote and directed the first film, is efficient but derivative, right down to a coda that strongly suggests the filmmakers don't intend to end the carnage here. Hopefully, another decade will pass before we discover it is an idle threat.