When you see the Strangers pursuing a family of four in The Strangers: Prey at Night, you’ll think of Laurie Strode in Halloween or maybe Sally in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Director Johannes Roberts confirms his sequel was influenced by John Carpenter, but not the obvious Halloween connection. He drew more on The Fog and Christine.
“Possibly, the two movies that were more influential in constructing a movie tonally where I was coming from was The Fog and Christine,” Roberts told Bloody-Disgusting.
“Those two films really were my lead in terms of atmosphere and pacing and cinematic style. It’s a tricky one in terms of the movie has a very tense slow build. It’s just atmosphere. It’s really building it and then when things go wrong, it’s relentless. It’s a tricky line to balance which is something you discover in the cutting room more because an audience needs to breathe. You can’t just hit them over the head relentlessly. It was a tricky one to get just right.”
Where the original Strangers was confined to a house, Prey at Night takes advantage of an entire trailer park. Wide open spaces are new for The Strangers, but Roberts knew a skilled filmmaker could make it work.
“We needed to find the right place and we found the right place in terms of I really wanted texture, contours to the landscape to give my camera something to capture. Real depth, anything could be anywhere. You’ve got the trailers, you’ve got the trees, but the real key to it was to just create that atmosphere. That’s where The Fog influence came in. We just had the fog machines running all the time. It really gave it that Carpenter feel and I think that really helped.”
Another new development is that the family pursued by The Strangers tries to escape by car. It turns out Strangers can siege any enclosed space, even a mobile one, and that’s where Christine came in.
“It’s possibly my favorite movie,” Roberts said of the Stephen King adaptation, Christine. “It’s certainly one of my favorites. Visually I think it’s incredible. It was just something I really wanted to play around with but it was something when I met the truck for the first time in real life, I was like yeah, there’s something about the Ford 100. It was just a great looking car and I just thought, ‘Fuck, this is going to be an amazing character in the movie.’ There’s something creepy about empty cars with the radios playing, cars in silhouette. It just became this character in its own right. It just became really fun to play around with that.”
That’s not to say there’s no Halloween or Texas Chainsaw in The Strangers: Prey at Night. There’s room for everyone to play.
“Those two movies are in the fabric. When you do a movie like this, you cannot help but have those two movies built into the fabric of it.”
Roberts is such a fan of Carpenter that he even defends Ghosts of Mars. In an introduction video Roberts recorded for early screenings, you could see his Ghosts of Mars poster behind him.
“I have a soft spot for Ghosts of Mars. The Ward I probably draw the line at because it just felt like a TV movie maybe a bit. I just think for a while he was the best storyteller in Hollywood. From Assault to Mouth of Madness, there really isn’t a bad movie in between those.”
Even a forgotten Carpenter film like Memoirs of an Invisible Man has good stuff in it. Roberts even has his sights on the source material.
“I’m always trying to persuade someone to let me remake that one. I love the book a lot. I have a soft spot for the movie. It’s a sort of forgotten Carpenter. It’s a funny one. I think it’s a pretty cool movie and maybe it doesn’t quite land. It’s neither one thing nor another but there are some incredible visual effects. Yeah, I think Chevy was in a strange place at that point career-wise. It’s a shame because it’s a cool movie that has been a little bit forgotten.”
The Strangers: Prey at Night opens Friday, March 9.