‘The Strangers: Chapter 1’ Interview: Director Renny Harlin


Opening in theaters on May 17th is the third film in ‘The Strangers’ franchise entitled ‘The Strangers: Chapter 1‘, which will act as the beginning of a new trilogy with all three films being directed by Renny Harlin (‘Die Hard 2,’ ‘Cliffhanger’).

The new movie stars Madelaine Petsch (‘Riverdale’), Froy Gutierrez (‘Teen Wolf’), Rachel Shenton (‘The Silent Child‘), Gabriel Basso (‘Super 8’), Ema Horvath (‘The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’), and Richard Brake (‘The Last Stop in Yuma County‘).

Director Renny Harlin Talks 'The Strangers: Chapter 1'.

Director Renny Harlin Talks ‘The Strangers: Chapter 1’.

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Moviefone recently had the pleasure of speaking with veteran director Renny Harlin about his work on ‘The Strangers: Chapter 1’, reinventing the franchise, his plans for the upcoming films, building suspense, creating rules for ‘The Strangers’ world, and his casting process.

You can read the full interview below or click on the video player above to watch our interviews with Harlin, Madelaine Petsch and Froy Gutierrez.

Froy Gutierrez, Madelaine Petsch and director Renny Carlin on the set of 'The Strangers: Chapter 1'.

(L to R) Froy Gutierrez, Madelaine Petsch and director Renny Carlin on the set of ‘The Strangers: Chapter 1’. Photo Credit: John Armour.

Moviefone: To begin with, can you talk about taking on this horror franchise and what you wanted to do to reinvent it and put your own personal stamp on it?

Renny Harlin: I am a big fan of the original ‘Strangers’, and I wouldn’t have done a remake or a sequel to it. But when I was presented with this challenge and opportunity of taking the premise of the original movie, which is a very realistic home invasion story, and then expanding on that for three movies, in essence, a four-and-a-half-hour odyssey of horror, I felt like you don’t get this opportunity ever to really go deep into the psychology of the victims and also the killers themselves. It was challenging, but it was incredibly rewarding to be able to do this.

'The Strangers: Chapter 1'.

‘The Strangers: Chapter 1’. Photo Credit: John Armour.

MF: Did you create rules for yourself for this world? Do you understand who the strangers are and why they’re doing what they’re doing?

RH: Very interesting point. What was special about the original film was that there were no answers. It was a random act of senseless violence, which unfortunately happens in this world of ours. We wanted to keep that theme alive throughout the three movies, so we answer some things that people have been wondering since they saw the original, such as who Tamara is, for example. But then we leave a bunch of things unanswered. We do dig deep into the psychology of these killers and study what makes a sociopath tick, but we don’t wrap it up and put a bow on top of it. We want to keep it open like the original film was.

'The Strangers: Chapter 1'.

‘The Strangers: Chapter 1’. Photo Credit: John Armour.

MF: Can you talk about the challenges of building suspense with a movie like this?

RH: The key principle was very clear, and you asked about if I made rules. The number one rule was reality. It’s so easy, especially I think a filmmaker like me who has done action movies, is to think bigger is better. But in this movie, smaller was better, and I always had to check with myself that I was keeping things real. This is nothing supernatural, this is not fantastical. This is about you and me in this extraordinary situation and challenge, and that was the most important thing to always keep in mind. Telling the story, directing the actors, finding the angles for the camera and so on, just the tension, the fear and the sense of dread comes from the fact that it’s so relatable that we all could end up in this horrifying situation.

(L to R) Froy Gutierrez as “Ryan” and Madelaine Petsch as “Maya” in 'The Strangers' Trilogy, a Lionsgate release.

(L to R) Froy Gutierrez as “Ryan” and Madelaine Petsch as “Maya” in ‘The Strangers’ Trilogy, a Lionsgate release. Photo Credit: John Armour for Lionsgate.

MF: Finally, can you talk about your casting process and what were you looking for when casting the characters of Maya and Ryan?

RH:Liv Tyler starred in the original film, and she did a fantastic job. She was beautiful, she was vulnerable, and she was interesting, so those were big boots to fill. We saw tons and tons of actors and realized this can’t be just any attractive, good actor. When we met Madeleine, which was through a Zoom call first, we were just really impressed by her intelligence, by her passion, by her insightfulness, and her charm. She very soon became our number one choice and ended up really becoming a partner in this endeavor in terms of working on the script with us and really understanding the full scale of the three movies, and having the physicality to be able to go through what she needs to go through in the subsequent films. Then with Froy, we wanted to find somebody who would have the chemistry with her, and again, he’s a great actor and just a sweet guy. There was just this certain innocence that we wanted to have in him so that it would be so painful to see him have to go through this stuff. I think most of the audience doesn’t consider them being these tough people who could deal with knife-wielding and ax-wielding killers, so I think that he’s also very relatable in this role.

“They don’t need a reason.”

R1 hr 31 minMay 8th, 2024

Showtimes & Tickets

After their car breaks down, a couple driving cross-country to begin a new life in the Pacific Northwest is forced to spend the night in a secluded rental, where… Read the Plot

What is the plot of ‘’The Strangers: Chapter 1’?

Maya (Madelaine Petsch) drives across the country with her longtime boyfriend, Ryan (Froy Gutierrez ), as the pair begin a new life together in the Pacific Northwest. Along the way, their car breaks down in Venus, Oregon and they are forced to spend the night in an isolated Airbnb home. Through the night they are terrorized by three murderous masked strangers.

Who is in the cast of ‘’The Strangers: Chapter 1’?

  • Madelaine Petsch as Maya
  • Froy Gutierrez as Ryan
  • Rachel Shenton as Debbie
  • Gabriel Basso as Gregory
  • Ema Horvath as Shelly
  • Ella Bruccoleri as Jasmine
  • Richard Brake as Sheriff Rotter
'The Strangers: Chapter 1'.

‘The Strangers: Chapter 1’. Photo Credit: John Armour.

Other Movies in ‘The Strangers’ Franchise:

Other Renny Harlin Movies:

Buy Tickets: ‘The Strangers: Chapter 1’ Movie Showtimes

Buy Renny Harlin Movies on Amazon


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