Actress Bailee Madison is no stranger to horror, having starred in 2010’s Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, multiple episodes of R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour, and she even appeared in an episode of Holliston. Soon fans will know her as Kinsey, a rebellious teenager caught in the crosshairs of the masked Strangers in the upcoming Strangers: Prey at Night, in theaters March 9, 2018.
When I was in Kentucky visiting the set of the film, Madison was in the middle of shooting a very pivotal scene. Covered in blood and collapsed in the middle of an empty street on a foggy night, Madison’s character was clearly in the thick of a cat and mouse pursuit by her assailants when the scene begins. The actress shares this particular scene with two other actors, and it gets emotionally and physically intense very quickly. To describe the scene in any further detail would be a massive spoiler, but what I can say is that it seems as though the character of Kinsey might possess far more wit and fortitude than James Hoyt (Scott Speedman) and Kristen McKay (Liv Tyler) combined.
“Kinsey was someone I was drawn to the moment I read her on page. It was one of those actor moments where it was like, ‘I have to play her, and I have to bring her to life,’” Madison says of her character, “She’s a very fierce minded original, kind of follows her own ideas of what needs to be done. She’s also very misunderstood; she’s dealing with this terrible situation with her family where she’s so disconnected and desperately wants to be connected. Through this journey, she has to be thrown into a place to understand what really is important. It’s a really fun, totally different thing that I have ever been fortunate enough to play before.”
While the scene being filmed shows Kinsey desperate and distressed, there’s also an underlying hint of a strong will to survive. When asked if Kinsey does possess tough survival instincts Madison states, “She has her moments. I think what was so great about the original, that we get to fall along with, is from the moment you pick up in the first movie is there is a sense of dread and sorrow, and it feels as if you’re watching the lives of two people that you shouldn’t be. It’s almost as if you’re the Strangers, as the audience. Like maybe I shouldn’t be watching this? When a film can make you do that it’s really great, and this one picks up on the same dread, and the same sorrow. Just sort of a new reinvention of a similar situation.”
The scene filming during my visit struck me as interesting not only for its intensity, but that for all of the physicality involved for Madison, her stunt double remained on the sidelines ready and waiting. “The stunts have been the hardest but in the best way,” the actress says of performing as much of the stunts as she can, though she acknowledges it’s probably the most difficult part of filming for her. “I called Cal Johnson, our stunt coordinator- he actually did the first Strangers, too, which is really exciting. But the stunts because you’re emotionally drained by the end of the day, and you’re physically bruised and taking home the stunts with you. Even though you’re leaving your character on set, it’s still somehow coming home with you and you’re left with remnants of things. Cal is letting me do close to 99% of the stunts, which I’m very fortunate for. It was one of the first things I said to Cal and Johannes, I said, ‘Please let me do as much as I can do.’ Because if you’re able to get a great script that establishes great characters then it’s a no-brainer, but then when you get a great script that also establishes pushing yourself in ways you’ve never been pushed then it’s even bigger. They’ve been really supportive and I’ve got battle scars from my time here on set. It’s been a blast.”
Wearing a Ramones t-shirt, tattered jeans and sporting bloodied wounds from obvious encounters with the Strangers, the character of Kinsey appears to be the epitome of teenage rebellion. When asked how much of Kinsey is in her, the actress reflects, “I actually wrote this in a letter to Johannes before we started filming; I connect with her so much but she is such a stranger to me. I think I wrote pun intended in parenthesis, because I’m cool like that. I can understand the idea of so desperately loving your family and loving people but being blocked off by things that sometimes matter, but other than that she’s a bit of a stranger to me. I spent a lot of time looking at things and writing notes and figuring out who she is through the journey, with our hair and makeup department, costume department, and with Johannes. It was a very special collaborative project to bring her to life in a very one of a kind way.”
Madison, no stranger to horror, admits that while she loves filming horror movies, watching them terrifies her. The exception to that is one of her scene partners, the actress behind the mask of Dollface. Madison cringes, stating “Dollface scares the most out of me. She’s so creepy. And she genuinely terrifies me. As a human being, Emma – she’s lovely, but she really terrifies me. Because she enjoys it too much.”
Between talking with actress Bailee Madison, observing an intense scene being filmed, and touring the intricately designed mobile home community that serves as the Strangers’ lethal playground, it’s clear that this isn’t so much of a sequel as it is a seamless continuation of the narrative that originated in 2008. While still paying special care to retain that atmospheric dread, the follow up also seems to have improved upon the original in many ways; more stunts, a bigger set, a slightly larger cast, and a more formidable opponent for the Strangers themselves. For fans of The Strangers, we have a lot to look forward to.