Director Renny Harlin Talks About His Strangers Trilogy And Playing With Horror Icons [Exclusive Interview]


The original “Strangers” came out in 2008 and “Prey at Night” came out in 2018. They were 10 years apart, from two different directors. Now we’re getting three films from you in fairly quick succession. There’s not a ton of lore with those first two films in terms of mythology and such. So I was really interested in what drew you to make a “Strangers” trilogy? Was it a love of the first two films? Was it whatever you guys have cooked up for these three that really inspired you? What was it that drew you to the project?

The original “The Strangers” is one of my favorite horror films ever. I remember seeing it not knowing anything when I went to the theater and just being blown away by the randomness of the events, because the whole heart of the movie is that it’s ordinary people under extraordinary circumstances. It’s something that is, I think, everyone’s worst fear: That in a safe home environment, there’s a home invasion for reasons that you absolutely don’t understand at all. And then just horrible violence ensues. So when my producer, Courtney Solomon, sent me the script, and I opened it and I realized it was 280 pages long, I was just wondering, What is going on? And I read the whole thing in one sitting and was just blown away by it.

So the opportunity, the chance of a lifetime to take a film that you loved, be able to remake it, and then answer some of those questions that I think all of us who enjoyed the original were left wondering, like, “Why? Who were the Strangers? Why did they do this? Is this completely really random, or is there something behind this or at least some reasons why somebody is a senseless, horrible serial killer?” And maybe more than anything, exploring that if one of the characters, in this case, the main female character, played by Madelaine Petsch, if she lives through this, how does this experience of horrible senseless violence, how does it affect a person mentally and physically? And how do you continue with your life? The chance to explore that was just too much to pass. I was absolutely determined to do this after I read the script and I said, “This is just an opportunity I can’t pass by.”

Doing justice and doing honor to the original film was of course the most important thing. So me being a fan myself, I knew what made the first movie tick for me, and I wanted to offer the same experience to the fans and to the people who are new to the whole concept. We didn’t go with the sequel, we didn’t explore that in any way. So for us, the original film is our Bible, and our second movie and third movie explore the hypothetical case of what happens — what if the first movie just continued and didn’t end there? What happens to Madelaine Petsch’s character? How did she change? What is she going to do? What’s her journey from here on?

Now that we filmed all three, we realized that we did answer a lot of the questions the fans and anybody who sees the first movie would have. But in a way, we left even more questions unanswered in the end of the third one. So I hope people love these and they’re very successful and we get to make many more and continue to really follow Madelaine’s character and her journey.

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