This month sees the exciting release of The Strangers: Prey at Night which is a follow-up to 2008’s The Strangers. The trailer promises some good solid horror and an aesthetic with a nice ‘80s influence. What it also does though is to make one admire the simplicity of the formula employed by director Johannes Roberts. In fact what this film really illustrates is that often horror works best when it dispenses with elaborate plots and concepts and just goes for a stripped down, timeless premise.
You might not agree, but actually many of the most memorable films in the genre do exactly this. By targeting our most fundamental fears directors can terrify us at a really profound level. One theme in particular that crops up time and time again is the nasty business of being targeted at home. Of course, the home is supposed to be a safe place, somewhere to withdraw from the world and find comfort and protection. It makes complete sense then that when a masked character starts knocking on the door, appearing at the window and leaving cryptic messages about the place it will scare the living daylights out of us. From Halloween in the ‘70s through to Scream and The Strangers this is always highly effective.
Taking it one step further, the Nightmare on Elm Street series saw the iconic disfigured Freddy Krueger actually targeting his victims in their dreams from the apparent safety of their small single beds. It’s an appalling prospect really, and even if there’s a slightly corny style at work to lighten the tone of the film, the force of the idea itself isn’t much diminished.
One of the worst aspects of this theme is that once you’ve been exposed to it you can’t ever reverse the process. In other words, once you’ve seen it, you can’t un-see it and the ideas are in your head for good. Most of the time this isn’t an issue in the life of a sensible, “well-adjusted” grown-up, but it becomes impossible to go into the kitchen late at night and not have a very slight worry that a face will appear suddenly at the window. Even more embarrassingly, it’s impossible to go the loo at three in the morning and return to your bed without worrying that some malicious figure has slipped stealthily in to the room in your momentary absence!
Ridiculous though it makes us feel, this is all just part and parcel of the horror genre and if you didn’t like it then you wouldn’t be reading lovehorror.co.uk now would you? So long may this fear be manipulated by directors, and long may we continue to doubt the sweetness of our homes!