UNILAD Talks To The Strangers: Prey At Night Director, Johannes Roberts

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Still from The Strangers: Prey At NightVertigo Releasing

Ten years ago horror fans across the world were shocked by a knock at the door in the dead of the night when The Strangers burst into cinemas. 

Now a decade later the sinister Strangers are back in an all-new film The Strangers: Prey At Night, a film that follows a normal family who make the silly mistake of driving their daughter to college.

Unfortunately, when they stop off at their aunt and uncles for a good nights rest they find themselves confronted by three masked strangers who delight in tormenting, torturing and eventually killing the unsuspecting family.

The original Strangers was in my mind one of the scariest films of the last decade and cemented in me a fear of being alone in the house that’s lasted a far too long into my adult life.

So I was more than a little excited when I got some time earlier this month with Prey At Night director, Johannes Roberts, to chat about the film and the monstrous family.

The film more than lives up to the original and it was clear from watching the it that Johannes was a fan, although he admitted he found making a sequel a bit odd.

Still from The Strangers: Prey At NightVertigo Releasing

Johannes explained:

I was a fan of the original but you know I was working on a sequel to a film that a lot of people loved so it was a bit daunting at first.

Thankfully, despite some initial misgiving’s, Johannes quickly adapted to the project and managed to stay true to the spirit of the original while also instilling the movie with some classic genre references.

For anyone who’s seen Prey at Night, it’s clear the film is choc-a-bloc with references to classic horror films, from the Halloween-style opening synth track to the more bombastic fight scenes which echo some of the more recent slashers.

It’s something that Johannes was very open about, admitting to me when we spoke that he drew direct inspiration from John Carpenter’s Halloween and other classic films.

Still from The Strangers: Prey At NightVertigo Releasing

He said: 

Yeah, I’m a massive fan of Carpenter so of course, he and his movies were an influence on the film [laughs] but it wasn’t direct or anything. In fact I drew inspiration from some surprising other films including Duel, The Fog and Christine.

With those movies though it’s more about channelling that atmosphere of those movies, you know? That relentless sense of dread.

While Christine may seem like a strange reference in a decidedly normal slasher (none of the Strangers family members have any supernatural abilities) they’re actually pretty on the nose.

Still from The Strangers: Prey At NightVertigo Releasing

You see, Johannes managed to add another character to the murderous Strangers, specifically a dilapidated and terrifying truck which has a sinister character all of its own just like the infamous red convertible.

Of course, Johannes didn’t need to rely on the truck for scares, the film’s chock full of terrifying moments that allow it to more than live up to its predecessor.

He laughed in delight as he explained to me how he and cinematographer Ryan Samul enjoyed setting up the films numerous scares and thrills.

Still from The Strangers: Prey At NightVertigo Releasing

Despite the scares, one of the things that most impressed me about Prey At Night was its restraint.

So many horror films feel the need to ramp up the menace by including outlandish backstories for their monsters, Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers for example, but that was a trope Johannes was keen to avoid.

He explained:

I know there backstory but I don’t think that’s important to this story if you know what I mean. We don’t want to take a break from the horror to explain their actions.

It would break the atmosphere of tension we’ve been trying to build throughout the film.

Still from The Strangers: Prey At NightVertigo Releasing

That said he did reveal to UNILAD that The Strangers aren’t biologically related and that they’re just psychopaths who enjoy what they do.

When pushed the chances of a sequel Johannes was rather tight-lipped although he did say that it’s a ‘possibility’.

So who knows? Maybe one day you’ll get a knock on the door late in the night when The Strangers return for a third outing…

The Strangers: Prey At Night is in UK cinemas on May 4

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Tom Percival

Tom Percival

More of a concept than a journalist, Tom Percival was forged in the bowels of Salford University from which he emerged grasping a Masters in journalism. Since then his rise has been described by himself as ‘meteoric’ rising to the esteemed rank of Social Editor at UNILAD as well as working at the BBC, Manchester Evening News, and ITV. He credits his success to three core techniques, name repetition, personality mirroring, and never breaking off a handshake.