I tend to shy away from phone interviews because I get nervous talking to someone when I can’t see their face. However, when I was offered the opportunity to chat with director Johannes Roberts, I jumped at the chance without a second thought. Johannes has worked in the film-making industry for almost twenty years, but his star absolutely blew up in 2017 when he was the captain behind 47 Meters Down. But, he didn’t stop there. He followed up that hit with one of the most anticipated horror sequels of this generation, The Strangers: Prey at Night, which hit cinemas around the world in March 2018. Strangers 2 has become one of my favorite home invasion slasher flicks of the year, and I was incredibly excited to talk to Mr. Roberts. As much as I wanted to start the interview from a traditional standpoint, I had a burning question that needed to be answered. So, beware. Major movie spoilers ahead!
In The Strangers: Prey at Night, the first big death scene (not including dear Aunt Sheryl and Uncle Marv) was matriarch Cindy, played by the effortless 6x Emmy Nominee Christina Hendricks. In the scene shared with Bailee Madison, Cindy’s daughter Kinsey, the older woman is brutally murdered in a trailer’s bathroom just after helping her offspring to safety. Now, as a viewer, I couldn’t help but recognize that there was no struggle between Cindy and Dollface, leading me to get pissed off at my favorite character just giving up. Though the screenplay for Strangers 2 was penned by Ben Ketai, I knew that Johannes Roberts would still have a clear understanding of the material and could give his reasoning behind the film’s most frustrating fate. Mr. Roberts explains, “It felt right the way Christina was playing it. It worked for me. She was concentrated on her daughter getting out. I think, for her, that was everything and she didn’t have an opportunity to [escape]. It was all about protecting her daughter, and once the knife had gone in – that’s it, she was done.”
Backtracking to the beginning, the earliest stages of The Strangers: Prey at Night‘s development, I wondered how Johannes was brought on board as director. The original Strangers came out in 2008, and after so many years without news – BOOM, the sequel was on the fast track. Johannes takes me back to February 2017 by saying, “I met up with the guys that did 47 Meters Down. They had a script of [it] and they asked if I was interested. I read it and thought, ‘There’s something here. Let’s give it a shot.’ And I believed I could bring my own stamp to it, my own point of view. It was a very quick process.” Of course, fans would agree with this statement. When The Strangers: Prey at Night opened in March 2018, it debuted in the #3 spot at the box office, followed by six consecutive weeks in the Top 30. Focusing more on action and gore than suspense, Strangers 2 was a thrill ride that was as exciting for the crew to produce as it was for the audience to enjoy. Johannes divulges on his favorite sequences with, “I really enjoyed the pool scene, but I think I liked the burning car and car smashing stuff the most. That was great. It was fun to shoot, it worked really well, and it looked great. We had a good time putting it together.”
Although shooting a movie is a lot of fun, there are grueling moments and large stints on set – including long night shoots. As the director, Johannes Roberts was required to be on set more than almost every other cast and crew member. As someone who basically lives to sleep, I wanted to know what his sleep schedule was like during the weeks that The Strangers: Prey at Night was in principal photography. He divulged, “I slept. I’m a big fan of night shoots! I got into film-making to sort of not be a part of society and to not do a 9-5 job. I didn’t want any of that world. There’s nothing more divorced from every day life than doing night shoots. I love them. We’d arrived as the sun was going down and we’d set up everything. We’d shoot, and then we’d cut early because it was the summer and the sun would come up earlier. James Harris and I would go to this dive bar next to our hotel that was amazing. All the shift workers would come in in the morning and we’d order mozzarella sticks and Bud Light. Then we’d go home, pass out, and start all over again. It was great.”
The Strangers: Prey at Night is the continuation in a popular series. Being that he was the man to bring it back to the limelight, it’s possible that director Roberts could be called upon in the future to resurrect another series. Halloween returns to us this October. If it does well, would Johannes be interested in continuing that saga? He stated to me, “I love everything John Carpenter, however, it’s probably one of the franchises that I would leave alone. But, I’m very interested to see how they go about the new sequel. From the trailer, it seems quite faithful, actually.” Speaking of sequels, Roberts also stated that, “48 Meters Down is in the cards for next year.” I’m looking forward to that for sure!
The Strangers: Prey at Night hit Blu-ray, DVD, VOD and Digital HD on June 12, 2018 courtesy of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. Ten days later and the horror film is still the #7 movie being sold from that retailer. Does incredible sales automatically ensure that a movie will become a cult classic? Not necessarily, and Johannes remains optimistic in the future success and following of his latest movie. He says, “It’s had the usual mixture of love and hate. I’m surprised how much the genre press has loved it. I’m happy that it landed in cinemas, which is great after so long. In horror terms, 10 years is a huge amount of time away. The entire Purge series has come out since the first Strangers. It’s been a very pleasing experience [so far]. It’ll be interesting to see now that it’s on DVD what kind of life it finds itself over the years.” For what it’s worth, I don’t think Johannes has anything to worry about!