The Strangers: Prey at Night opens in theaters March 9th, and we recently had an opportunity to sit down with the film’s Director, Johannes Roberts (47 Meters Down) to discuss the anticipated sequel to the 2008 horror hit, The Strangers.
(Special thanks to Johannes and the team at Aviron Pictures, and to Scream Queen Stream‘s Jessica Cameron who joined us for and contributed some of the questions for this exclusive interview.)
Bryan Bertino‘s home invasion horror The Strangers scared the pants off of us upon its release back in 2008, and it’s been a long 10 years while we waited for a sequel. Now we finally have one in The Strangers: Prey at Night, and while the new film is based on a script written by Bertino and Ben Ketai shortly after the first film was released, it has a style and flair of its own thanks to new director Johannes Roberts (47 Meters Down, The Other Side of the Door), who found influence in classic 80’s slashers, bringing a sense of fun and fight into the mix.
One of the things that’s noticeable in watching the trailer for Prey At Night is that it has a sort of classic 80’s slasher vibe to it. Is that a genre you’ve been a fan of and what was your sort of inspiration for that?
Johannes Roberts: When I got offered the film, like, I’m a huge fan of the first movie and I’m like ok this is interesting – it’s a very nerve-racking thing tackling a film that people really love. But I read the script and what I took from the script, I’m like, I’m a huge John Carpenter fan and I just, like, ah man, this is – I can make the John Carpenter film I always wanted to make. So yeah, I really brought all that into the movie. It really references Christine, and The Fog and Halloween, so yeah I’m a nerd, and the movie is that on screen.
How closely did you stick to the script, which as I understand was written [by Bryan Bertino and Ben Ketai] not long after the first movie came out.
Johannes Roberts: I think a director has to bring their own personality to a movie and you know what’s written on paper is never gonna be the world that you’re into, but you know, Bryan’s an amazing writer and Ben Ketai is an amazing writer and it was just really great material for me and the cast to work with.
What can you tell us in terms of the plot and where this sequel fits in, in terms of the timeline of the first movie. And will we learn who Tamara is?
Johannes Roberts: The way I would describe [Prey at Night] is that it fits into the “world” of The Strangers. It’s kind of its own beast, but fits into that world. What I loved about the first one and what I love about this one is the ambiguity of it – you don’t know, and the what, the why and the motivelessness of these characters is just terrifying to me, so we really play on that.
I loved 47 Meters Down and one of the things I love about your work including in 47 Meters Down is that you have strong women playing these strong female roles. Can you speak a little bit about your decision to do that?
Johannes Roberts: Do you know what, I was chatting with my screenwriting partner the other day about this and it’s true – I think I’ve done 11 movies now – from very small to this stage – and I think only one of them has a male lead. And the rest, I mean The Other Side of the Door, 47 Meters Down, The Strangers [Prey at Night] – it’s all strong female leads. I don’t really know why that is actually, I wish I could give you a really smart clever answer, but it just feels natural when I write something and then when I respond to material that’s already written. I have 2 sisters and maybe I look to them as my role models – I don’t, and if they’re reading this I don’t (laughs). But you know, the genre has a real – it’s funny, in a world where people are constantly bemoaning the lack of female leads, the horror genre and the sci-fi genre have actually always been ahead of that, from obviously Ripley [in Alien], Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween – theres a real sort of precedence in that all the way through, and of course the Resident Evil movies which I love. I wish I could give you smarter answer than that, but yeah, it just feels very natural to me.
Also I noticed, well I would say that you have cast women that I wouldn’t predict to take on those roles like Mandy Moore in 47 Meters Down and now Christina [Hendricks] from Mad Men. Are you consciously pursuing actors for roles that you feel could do it that don’t typically play that?
Yeah, I think a big thing with the kind of movies that I make is I very much – like with Strangers, and with 47 Meters – is I believe the reason they are scary is that you buy into that world, and you buy into those characters, and to cast people that are to make it so that it isn’t a horror movie, you know to really sort of go at the drama side of it, and the family side of things.
How scary is this movie?
Johannes Roberts: I mean, I’m the director so I have to say it’s scary, but… it’s scary. I’ve seen it with a sort of big audience and people are screaming all the way through, so I mean I really hope that translates. But it’s also a lot of fun. There’s a lot of like 80’s music going all the way through it, and it just looks, like, big, larger than life. Like the first movie was very dark, very bleak towards the end – this is very dark in what happens but then they – you see a real fight back from the family, and I think that’s kinda cool, so it has a slightly different vibe to it.
Can we expect to see a Strangers 3?
Johannes Roberts: I’ll tell you March 9th when this opens (laughs). I mean I think there’s definitely a world to explore there, I think it’s a great landscape. I’d love to see it as a franchise, with or without my involvement. I grew up on Friday the 13th and Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street and I’ve not seen that in awhile and I don’t know if anybody else has an appetite for that or not, but I certainly do.
The Strangers: Prey at Night stars Christina Hendricks, Martin Henderson, Bailee Madison and Lewis Pullman and opens in theaters March 9th.