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About The Film
In The Strangers: Prey at Night, three eerily disguised assailants emerge from the darkness to indiscriminately terrorize unsuspecting, innocent individuals going about their business. "The Strangers: Prey at Night is inspired by Bryan Bertino's The Strangers, from ten years ago, with Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman," explains director Johannes Roberts. "I'm a huge fan of the first movie and what Bryan did as a director. With this film, the movie centers on a family bringing their daughter to boarding school. It is a family struggling to connect and on the verge of falling apart. On their journey, they stop-off at trailer park to stay overnight. As they begin to settle in for the night, a menacing presence appears in the form of three masked strangers, who intend to hunt and lethally harm them one-by-one, and now the family must rely on each other to survive. It is pretty dark and gruesome."

Similar to the original film, the central characters in The Strangers: Prey at Night are more than a plot device for blood and gore. "The original film, The Strangers, differentiated itself from the typical home invasion movie by building a relationship between the characters which made it more effective when the frightening intruders arrive to terrorize them," says producer James Harris. "With this film, we, again, wanted the audience to care about the characters upfront because if they are not invested in the characters, then they don't care if these characters die, and that's an important element to heightening the suspense and experiencing the fear."

In addition to creating characters with a compelling emotional journey to build the fear, having three disguised antagonists stalking and slaying unwitting victims at random is the crucial component that drives the terror. "With this film, I didn't want to rely upon jump scares to get the audience to react," explains Roberts. "I didn't want someone to come out of the dark when you least expect it and go 'Boo' and the audience jumps. Jump scares can be cool and fun, but this isn't that movie. This is a movie about dread and atmosphere."

"The audience sees the strangers before our characters do, and they're just there," continues Roberts. "When the characters come face-to-face with these terrifying assailants who just want to kill them, it invokes a horrific, inevitable and unreasoning psychological fear that makes the film scary."

And the randomness by which these strangers choose their targets also increases the fear because no one is safe. "I think what's interesting about the strangers is that they are always trying to play with the protagonists," says Harris. "The fear of having three people, who you don't even know, doing something for no motive whatsoever, essentially committing a pointless horrific act is terrifying to people because it means no one is chosen for a reason. It's just about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. And that plays into people's fears."

Although the two films share a similar approach to their central characters and both feature the strangers, where they diverge is in the setting and action. "The Strangers: Prey at Night is a bigger film with more scale," explains Harris. "We took the same villains from the first one and placed them in a scenario involving an entire family who is still dealing with similar challenges that the characters in the first film dealt with. And instead of interior setting, this story occurs outside in a trailer park with more stunts, action and logistical issues."

In making The Strangers: Prey at Night, Roberts employed elements of classic horror films from the seventies and eighties. "Cinematically, I wanted this film to fit into the world of The Strangers, but I wanted a more retro and darker feel to this," explains Roberts. "I'm a massive John Carpenter fan and his film Christine is very much an influence for me on this movie. Essentially, the pallet for The Strangers: Prey at Night is a mixture of John Carpenter's films and other classic horror movies such as Duel, Don't Look Now, Halloween and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. All of these films I drew upon, in one way or another, as inspiration for The Strangers: Prey at Night. It wears its influences openly and proudly, and it's definitely a movie from the heart."

The element that influenced Roberts the most is the strange car from Christine, with a mind of its own, and having a terrifying truck in this film played prominently in director's decision to helm The Strangers: Prey at Night. "The thing that drew me to this movie was the truck. It is like a character in the movie," says Roberts. "I've put a lot emphasis on the truck to add to the drama. In placing one of the strangers behind the wheel, the truck, itself, comes alive and seems as if it is stalking and trying to kill the family as well."

With the success of the original film and its massive appeal to horror fans, the filmmakers had little difficulty in finding the perfect cast to portray the terrorized family. "The cast on The Strangers: Prey at Night is phenomenal. We got super lucky," says Roberts. "Christina Hendricks was the first to sign on. She was a huge fan of the first movie, and she threw herself into the role of Cindy, the matriarch of the family. It was great working with her. She's got a real force of a personality."

The multiple Emmy-nominated actress from "Mad Men" did not have to think twice before agreeing to participate in the film. "I got a call from one of my representatives telling me that they received an offer for me to play this role, but did not know if I wanted to do it," recalls Hendricks. "They told me the title and I immediately said, 'I'm in,' because I'm a huge fan of the first film. It's one of the scariest movies I've ever seen in my life. Also, I like the genre very much. So, I just thought it was cool and exciting."

In her portrayal of Cindy, Hendricks saw a caring mother desperately trying to bridge the parent - teenager divide. "Cindy is the mother of two teenagers who are going through a hard time," says Hendricks. "She's a loving mother who's trying to do the best for her daughter and son in any way she can. And sometimes she just doesn't know what to do; but, she is willing to do whatever it takes to help her kids."

For Hendricks, the bond between the cast helped to create a familial atmosphere. "The nice thing about this group of actors is everyone has been very open with one another," says Hendricks. "There was a level of intimacy right away. And we truly enjoyed each other's company which translated into a wonderful family dynamic."

To invoke the fear that her character experiences, Hendricks chose to be in the moment and let the scene unfold. "There have been some moments on set that have been scary," states Hendricks. "Of course, anyone who is a fan of the first one knows the famous scene when one of the strangers knocks on the door and says, 'Hi! Is Tamara there?' which just makes my skin crawl. So, we have our own version of that moment and in rehearsal I got giddy and excited to do it."

"But, I'm going to be honest. I haven't read the whole script, which I've never done before on a project," continues Hendricks. "I'm such a fan of the original that I want to experience the fear first hand in the same way the audience would as they watch the film. Besides, I don't know how much you can prepare for these types of scenes. You just have to be in the moment as much as possible and go there."

Aside from letting the scene play out, Hendricks found the film's premise in and of itself to be terrifying. "The thing that frightens me the most is that no one knows who the strangers are, and there isn't any rhyme or reason for doing what they do - that's what's scary. It's something that's done on a whim and without purpose that makes it even scarier than someone who actually sits down and plans to end a life."

From personal experience, Hendricks knows the fear that emerges when a stranger invades one's dwelling. "I have had moments in my life where someone was trying to break into my house while I was there and it was terrifying," recalls Hendricks. "You know the sounds of your house, when all of a sudden you hear something that shouldn't be there. And that feeling of seeing a silhouette of someone in a window is very terrifying. I think that's why this movie scares me so deeply because I'm afraid of just normal people deciding to mess with you. It's not a God/Devil thing. It's not a space creature. It's not supernatural. It's literally someone coming over to mess with you. That's what I'm scared of."

Bailee Madison plays Hendricks's rebellious teenage daughter, Kinsey, who is struggling to find her way in the world. "Kinsey is a very fierce minded, original, teenage girl who feels very disconnected from her family, and that's something she so desperately wants to change," explains Madison. "She wants to be connected; she wants to feel like she belongs. But she's at a point right now where she feels like there is no hope and even if she tries she'll fail, so she puts up this strong barrier that prevents her family from getting too close to her. And through the challenges that she faces and the grueling obstacles she has to overcome, she discovers what's important and what's worth fighting for."

From the moment Madison read the script, she knew that this was the type of horror film that she longed to be a part of given its emphasis on the human component before the terror. "I've read a lot of horror scripts prior to this one, where the characters are thrown into very inhumane, awful environments, and the humanity is lost making it hard to feel for them," says Madison. "And what The Strangers: Prey at Night does so well is that from the moment the film picks up you are thrown into the lives of these people and you are fighting just as hard as they are. That's the kind of horror film that grabs me and gets to me, which is why I love this project so much and wanted to be a part of it."

Doing this film also gave Madison an opportunity to confront her worst fears. "Filming The Strangers: Prey at Night has been petrifying for me," remarks Madison. "It's so scary. I hate people in masks. I can't do Halloween horror nights. I can't do the scare jumps. I can't do the mazes. I sob through the whole theme park, covering my eyes. When I signed on to do this, a couple of my friends said to me, 'You realize you just signed on for your biggest fear right? This is your worst nightmare thrown into one huge package.' I said, 'Yea, I'm ready to tackle this.' But the first time I saw The Man in the Mask, Pinup, and Dollface, I went ghost white. I was actually rude to them, too, because I was so scared."

However, being surrounded by the things that petrify her the most, Madison still managed to find the fun in making a horror film. "Christina and I had a big scare when they bolted us into the bathroom set," recalls Madison. "Dollface bangs on the door, and I said to Christina, 'Holy smokes, this is crazy.' In that moment, we both looked at each other and said, 'We're making a really scary movie,' which was fun."

Although Madison had much to fear in filming The Strangers: Prey at Night, she was incredibly fearless when it came to doing her own stunts. "All of the stunts in the film have been so exciting," says Madison. "Cal Johnson, our stunt coordinator, has been wonderful with letting me do as many stunts as he thinks are safe, but I still want to do them all. I have several battle wounds to show for it. I might get a little banged up, but it's worth it - I love doing stunts."

Like Hendricks, Madison also shared an instantaneous connection with her co-stars. "When the entire cast arrived on location, everything effortlessly fell into place," explains Madison. "I think that we were all so excited and grateful to be a part of this movie and this experience that we lifted each other up and dove into these characters head first with no precautions, no safety nets, just us opening ourselves up in the most vulnerable way. And because we were able to do that, we all had to be there for each other and we became really close. So, I'm fortunate to be a part of this family, and I feel like I now have friends for life, which is really nice."

In casting Madison as Kinsey, Roberts discovered a kindred spirit. "Bailee is just hilarious," says the director. "We get on like a house on fire."

Madison shares an equal affinity for Roberts. "I fell in love with Johannes before I got to meet him," says Madison. "When we finally met, I just got such a sense that this man is a kind-hearted human being who loves what he does, loves his crew members, loves his cast, and is a big fan of this project. When you have a movie that was so successful and you're reimagining the story years later, you want someone to pour his heart and soul into it, and this man is doing that every day. It's a joy to get to work alongside of him and to get to see him work. I'm a fan of Johannes' and I will be for life. I'm really happy we got to do this together."

Playing opposite of Madison is Lewis Pullman as Luke, the golden child older brother of Kinsey. "Lewis has a natural charm and ease to him," says Harris. "When we put him with Madison, they felt very much like brother and sister."

The two first met in Los Angeles prior to filming and immediately hit it off and, having worked with Pullman's father, actor Bill Pullman, on a previous project, Madison sensed they would get along. "I absolutely adored him," she says of her first meeting with the younger Pullman. "I think our connection was just bound to happen."

Once on set, Pullman was able to develop a greater understanding of his character's role as a mediator between Madison's character and their parents, which sets up the story and is central to the family's dynamics. "Luke is constantly getting caught in the crossfire and I think that's part of what makes him such an incredibly relatable character. I think you could probably find a 'Luke' in almost every family," states Pullman. "When the audience is first being introduced to the family, it's right amidst a period where I think Luke is beginning to get a little worn out from constantly trying to be this kind of equalizer amongst his family, or at least a buffer between Kinsey and their parents. Luke is a good kid who is put in a position where maybe that's not the easiest thing to be, and as an audience we watch him struggle with that. Once the strangers arrive on the scene, I think the idea of being a 'good kid' goes from 'help your sister cope with her problems' to 'help your sister get out alive' pretty quick."

When it came to filming the action sequences, Pullman found the showdown his character has at the pool with The Man in the Mask, played by Damian Maffei, to be one of the most spectacular to shoot. "The pool scene was definitely one of the most memorable scenes that we've shot so far. It was one of the biggest challenges and at the same time one of the scariest," he recalls. "Damian is very conscious of the fact that his face is masked and so he uses his body incredibly intentionally. When he charged at me with the ax, those small, minute details he used in his body language were what really scared the hell out of me."

For Pullman, the trailer park set is just as frightening as the villains themselves. "There have been a plethora of instances where I have been terrified on this set. The set is truly eerie and almost of a character within itself. Ryan Samul, the DP, really lit the hell out of it and made it this sort of terrifyingly beautiful playground for the strangers," says the actor. "The shadows are extra dark and the light is extra light. With that contrast comes a lot of mystery and I think it's that in-between, that almost purgatory-like feeling of the park, that really captures the essence of the strangers."

Like the rest of the cast, Pullman has thoroughly enjoyed working under Roberts' direction. "Working with Johannes, for me, has been a complete pleasure and I think anyone on set will say the same. He has the excitability of a 12-year-old boy stepping onto a paintball course, so he gets jazzed up about pretty much every scene. It's impossible not to pick up on that and ride the waves of his excitement," he says. "That's a pretty rare trait and I find it really invaluable as an actor. He has a really good sense of what keeps a movie moving forward and is continually reminding us of those points. And I think he knows how to make a damn good movie."

Pullman admits he was not initially a fan of the horror genre, which is linked to him sneaking in a viewing of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds at what was probably too young an age. "But then I got to an age where I was like, 'I might have to revisit this, because I have a feeling I am depriving myself of a world of awesome,' and then I kind of became obsessed with it," he remembers. "That's why I was so excited when I read the script for The Strangers: Prey at Night and I thought 'oh my gosh, I might get to be a part of this world of awesome.'"

While reading the script, Pullman recalled when he first watched The Strangers with his dad. "We don't watch scary movies together that much," he explains. "We couldn't stop talking during the movie, continually interrupting saying things like, 'I would have done something different. I would have grabbed the knife and done this or that.' We were clearly just breaking the tension in how scared we were because it's an incredibly well-done horror movie."

Portraying Mike, the steadfast patriarch of the family is Martin Henderson. "As a kid, I grew up watching Martin in 'Shortland Street,'" recalls Roberts. "When he came forward for this role, I said, 'God, I love Martin Henderson.' He's a very funny, laid back and chill guy. He's the dad you want."

Henderson was intrigued about the family drama in this film that begins with two parents taking their daughter to boarding school. "We band together for one last weekend as we take her away, so at the beginning of the film there is a lot of tension within the family," he says. "We spend the night in a trailer park just close to where we'll be delivering our daughter the next morning, and shortly after settling into our trailer, things start getting a little odd, and then a bit of horror ensues as we're sort of systematically hunted down by these masked strangers that come out of nowhere, with no identity, as they're intent on killing us all."

After starring in very successful horror film The Ring, Henderson appreciated that The Strangers: Prey at Night centers on a different type of antagonist. "I think what struck me was just how airy the atmosphere was after the first kill where you see there's nothing personal about this at all. It's purely the strangers' joy of taking another's life and witnessing that almost passively, without menace, without celebration, without any sort of revenge or anything personal, which I found horrifying," states the actor. "I don't see a lot of horror movies, so this was the first film of its kind that I've read in years and I was shocked. It's got some twists to it and there's something so shocking - and obviously violent - but something surprising about each kill, the way it happens and the pointlessness of it."

It's the lack of motive that frightens Henderson most about the strangers. "There doesn't seem to be any feasible theory as to why the strangers are doing what they're doing. I think that's part of what makes the movie so terrifying, that it's impersonal. There's no rhyme or reason. There's nothing personal in it, other than the desire to kill," he says. "And because we never get to know them as characters, we don't understand their reasons why. I think it's that total ambiguity and the unanswered component to the movie that makes it so terrifying. It's so senseless and you realize these characters are just at the mercy of something they didn't even create."

Filming such intense, terrifying scenes on location may have been what brought the cast together so quickly. "As a cast, we get along great and I think it's just one of those fortunate things," says Henderson. "It partly could be the fact that we're all lumped together, a long way from home, working night shoots and then spending our nights in this warehouse being attacked and screaming and running in this intense situation."

Overall, Henderson has enjoyed the collaborative environment Roberts creates on set. "He's got that wonderful mix of knowing exactly what he wants but he's not afraid to try something else in case it's better, and I think that allows you to feel like you're contributing to the process," he explains. "He's always open to new ideas and exploring, and I think it ignites your own creativity as an actor."

To bring forth the terror at the center of The Strangers: Prey at Night required character actors to depict these ominous assailants. "The strangers had to be great performers capable of stunts," says Roberts. "They had to have a variety of attributes such as the playfulness of Dollface and Pinup as well as a tall, lanky, slouchy vibe for The Man in the Mask. Essentially, we wanted actors who had the ability to be a character. It was quite an involved process to get them right because it was done so well in the first one. And we found actors who bring their own creativity to these characters making them scarier and heightening the horror."

In addition to having menacing, masked murderers lurking in the darkness, the filmmakers needed the right location for gaining a tense and fearsome atmosphere - one that was both remote and enclosed, and also completely cut-off from civilization to help to accentuate the terror of being alone while somebody is coming after you. "The biggest challenge of making the film was finding the perfect location," says Harris. "We didn't want to use a traditional trailer park because it was too small. We needed something more sprawling, like a cross between a holiday vacation setting and a trailer park, but that doesn't exist. So, we had to get a plot of land and create the trailer park from scratch."

To also create a frightening and effective horror mise-en-scene required filming to be done in the cover of darkness. "Most of the film was shot at night which is its own logistical nightmare," says Harris. "When you are shooting nights, it is tough sometimes to keep everybody's energy levels at a certain point the whole way through. At the same time, you are in a race against the light of day. Filming was done in the month of July with limited hours of darkness. It constantly feels like you are against the clock. But you can't fight nature. If it gets light, it gets light."

Adding to the terror of the location and atmosphere is the malevolent truck. "We had to match the model from the original film because we felt that there should be continuity between the vehicles," explains Harris. "We found a similar model and we spray painted it. In the first film, you can't see the truck from all angles; therefore, we had a lot of back and forth about certain sides and panels of the truck. Was the bonnet red? Is it white? Then we had to get six other trucks: two that got fireproofed, two that were reinforced for stunts, and two for driving."

"The trucks go through so many different incarnations," continues Harris. "We have a fantastic camera car guy, Brandon, who is constantly un-destroying them to make them function so we can use them in some other form in the movie."

The Strangers: Prey at Night would not be complete without a blaze of fire and destruction in its wake. "My favorite scene so far is probably one of the many times the truck has been set on fire or seems to be destroyed," says Harris. "We have a great stunt team and SFX team but every time you never know what you're going to get. They don't give you a preview before the director calls, 'Action.' You only know that there is going to be fire and explosions. It's quite exhilarating to sit there waiting to see the climactic outcome."

Braving the flames and executing the truck sequences is Stunt Coordinator Cal Johnson - who incidentally, performed the same job on The Strangers. In a compelling sequence of pyrotechnics, Johnson has the honors of standing in for The Man in the Mask. "In one of the scenes, we rear-ended a cop car at about 38 miles an hour," says Johnson. "Then, we disabled the cop car and had the actress inside so that the truck could pull up beside her and taunt her a little bit. The car is totally disabled. She's throws a match down and blows up both vehicles with me inside of it but not actually inside."

"With the truck engulfed in flames and me inside driving it, she runs down the road and I start chasing her. We get to an intersection, and again, I circle the truck around her to taunt her some more. It's a pretty cool sequence."

For the fire sequences, Johnson made sure that all the safeguards and precautions were in place. "We prepped it just like I'm on fire," explains Johnson. "We did a full body prep on me that included two gel layers and a full fire suit. We got a Nomex hood and Nomex everything else. In case there's a breach in the cockpit, I'm covered and then I'll be able to exit while we have my safety guys standing by, too."

"I've been with this crew for about 4 or 5 years now. They're the top team in Atlanta," continues Johnson. "One guy is the leading fire expert in the United States. Together, we constantly prep fire burns, we test fire burns, come up with new different ways to set people, cars and trucks on fire. So, we're always constantly improving what we know, our knowledge base and moving forward with that."

Roberts views the music - encompassing both the score by Adrian Johnston and the soundtrack - in The Strangers: Prey at Night as its own character in the film. "I'd fallen in love with the music by Adrian Johnston in I Am Not a Serial Killer, so I specifically chased him for this film, knowing that he would bring a sort of sensibility and a heart to it," says the director. "It's not just an underscore - it's there. It's right up and central, and you'll feel the Carpenter influence and others throughout the movie. Music can always make you jump with a loud noise and set you on edge by being discordant, but what I love with the score on The Strangers: Prey at Night is that it is so intertwined with the emotions of the scene that we are drawn into the survival of these characters - and that is where true horror comes from, once you care about your protagonists."

Johnston discusses his inspiration for the score: "I had an idea that, once we reach Gatlin Lake, just as the strangers are tuning into radio pop from yesteryear, so too should the scoring sensibilities get occasionally dialed across the decades. I also wanted to treat it as much as possible as a live event, but also incorporating certain 'musique concrete' techniques, reverse tape, loops, cut ups, etcetera." To ratchet up the nostalgic flavor of the music, Johnston used an unorthodox studio. "The recording sessions took place at night in an incredibly atmospheric, deconsecrated chapel, centuries old," he explains. "I projected the film onto a 30' high paper screen and improvised to picture, mixing acoustic instruments, vintage synths and organs. There were no nearby neighbors to disturb, so I was able to get the entire building thrumming with the cacophony." In addition to the unique recording locale, Johnston utilized a distinctive mix of techniques to create an ultra-rich sound. "To create the monolithic 'no place to hide' theme, alongside drums, guitars, and the odd trombone, I plugged vintage synths into a bank of amplifiers recorded through a network of suspended microphones set up on the stone slabs, including one hanging high up in the west window, meaning I could get an amazing stereo perspective."

Although the haunting, driving tone of the score may be an expected element of a horror film, the counterpoint of '80s pop songs playing in scenes of extreme terror represents a choice that bucks the norm. Roberts always planned to have a rock ballad play over a sequence where Lewis Pullman and The Man in the Mask duke it out in a swimming pool, but extending that era's music across the full soundtrack of the film evolved during the editing process. Roberts explains, "Once we got into post and dropped Bonnie Tyler, which was my first and only choice for the scene, on over the pool sequence, it started to make sense to have the truck always playing eighties, and then across the whole movie. It just matched the shooting style so well." Producer Harris recalls, "Johannes is a huge Jim Steinman fan, and that started the ball rolling. Once we had 'Total Eclipse,' the idea to have the whole film in that style fell into place. It makes it feel different to other movies out there and is the music we grew up with. I think the pool scene to Bonnie Tyler is one of the best scenes to music I have watched in recent memory."

Beyond complementing the visual aesthetic of the film, the eighties music incorporated a unique opportunity to further enmesh the audience in the uneasiness of the film. "It is always fun to juxtapose a great upbeat track against a dark scene," says Roberts. "I think what is interesting about the music in this film is how enjoyable some of the scenes become - and then that is, in turn, quite uncomfortable." Music supervisor Phil Canning agrees that it's the subversion of expectations that is so unnerving: "There is something so chilling about the bright, throw away, sing-a-long pop hits soundtracking the slaying and fear. It's that happy simplistic pop music, luring you into a false sense of security, giving you a warm fuzzy feeling of your old memory of that song, before tearing into new and relentless fear you have not known." The contrast builds another level in the rollercoaster the audience rides while watching the film. Harris explains, "I think it takes people into an unexpected, different feeling, and this really helps when we ramp the terror up again."

Different from other films, the needle drops in The Strangers: Prey at Night are organic in-scene tracks rather than audio overlay, and they become the calling card of the strangers' kills, which further underscores the randomness of their mayhem. As Canning notes, "There is a clear amoral attitude of the killers - murder and terror without any remote reason - and so the pop/rock music accentuates how little they care, and how they can go about their business so freely, still listening to rock radio and power ballads."

In the end, all of the songs turned out to be very personal selections for Roberts. "You'll be going through my childhood record collection when watching this movie," the director explains. "I love all the tracks, but my favorite are the two Jim Steinman tracks, 'Total Eclipse of the Heart' and 'Making Love Out of Nothing at All.' The scenes in which they're featured take on an almost operatic quality once the tracks are put over the top. I've always loved repetitive music: I feel that a theme played over and over again starts to pick up emotions, like rolling a snowball across the snow, becoming larger and larger. Carpenter is the king of this, and it's something Adrian really focused on with the score, but Jim Steinman is fantastic at doing this as well. I love the chorus at the end of 'Making Love' just repeating over and over at the end of the film. It's playing horror in a different way, something quite beautiful I think."


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