It has been almost exactly a decade since the release of writer-director Bryan Bertino’s The Strangers, a handsome, chilling, and much-admired tale of two lovers — played by Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman — being tormented by a trio of masked, motiveless killers. Horror genre-speaking, that’s an aeon, long enough to have seen the release of four Insidious movies, and five Paranormal Activity films, and the creation of a Conjuring “universe.” But it is not long enough, apparently, for the folks responsible for this sequel to come up with anything close to a fresh spin on the original movie’s template.
Christina Hendricks and Martin Henderson star as the parents of teenage kids played by Lewis Pullman and Bailee Madison. The latter’s Kinsey is a generically troubled, Ramones T-shirted kid whose issues have prompted a road trip so she can be placed in a boarding school. Along the way, the quartet stop to spend the night at a trailer park owned by other family members, and find themselves being picked off by the trio of maniacs from the first film.
Director Johannes Roberts made last year’s shark-infested 47 Meters Down and, coincidentally or not, this film’s most memorable scene also involves water as Pullman’s character tangles with the axe-wielding “Man in the Mask” in the trailer park’s swimming pool while the soundtrack blasts out Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” Other than that, this is rote stuff, with the mostly silent killers themselves bringing little to the party other than their weapons. Two films in, The Strangers has already become a horribly familiar franchise. C+