Interview: ‘The Man in the Mask’ Damian Maffei – The Strangers: Prey at Night

Damian Maffei

One of the most anticipated horror films of 2018 comes in the form of the sequel to cult horror hit The Strangers.

Ten years The Strangers: Prey at Night, brings our three masked villains to a trailer park to cause terror. We caught up with The Man in the Mask himself Damian Maffei, to see if the Strangers can strike gold again after a decade away.

Tell us about how you got involved in The Strangers: Prey at Night?

I had been recommended for the part by producer Jon Wagner whom I had worked with previously, first time about 10 years ago in a movie called CLOSED FOR THE SEASON. He and I aligned again on the short film WILDIFRES, which Jon directed, I played the lead in.

For this, at some point they were looking to cast the parts, and Jon said something like, “I know this guy Damian, he’s a great actor,” (or maybe he said “tremendous actor”. “Magnificent”?) but he loves the genre and will totally get in to doing this part.”

For me, it sounded like a movie directly up my alley, but I wasn’t sure if I was the right guy for the role. But then I read the script and thought, “wow, this is pretty cool. There are definitely moments in here where I can bring something to it and put my own stamp on it. And the rest of the time, have good, clean, menacing fun.” So I did it.​

Can you remember watching the original?

Oh yeah, I remember it was out for a while before I got a chance to see it. I wanted to go, but my schedule wasn’t allowing me, so by the time I did get there, it had already made a ton of money. So I rode the hype train in, which is never a good mode of transportation.

And yet… I still very much enjoyed it. It’s a very effective film that holds up just as well 10 years later. It was different than what I remember expecting too. In a very good way.​

Are there any traits you took from Kip Weeks’ portrayal of the character in the original?

Part of what is so effective about the original is that the Strangers are here and there in the background, quick flashes, more that you the audience knows they’re there, but they’re not… OUT THERE IN YOUR FACE. It’s really wonderful and has clearly had an effect on people, then and now.

Prey At Night utilizes a lot of those effective moments but as you can see from the trailers, circumstances change the game a bit, send things spiraling out of control. So I picked up on the whole stealth mode, the slinking and sneaking around, the mind games, but I mostly had to mold and create ​behavior of my own to adapt to these circumstances. It’s a whole new playing field for The Strangers.

How hard is it to play a mute character?

I think if you’re JUST playing a mute character, then you use your body language and face to get what you want across (or sign language), I mean, I have a pretty expressive face. But they covered my face, you know. So mute, no face… Just my eyes.

I’ll tell you, as someone who’s been acting for years, takes it very seriously, it’s a challenge in the way that you both need to find the moments where you can make something of it, put your stamp on it and make it your own, but not overdo it.

Actors love themselves (they hate themselves too, but we’re all the best actors) and you’re covering up and muting the two things we’ve been trained to utilize all our lives. But if I’m going to do something,

I’m going to go all in, bring everything I can to it. And I respect the genre, the script, and the filmmakers involved in this so when I said I’d do it, I was going to bring what I could.​

It’s a decade since the original film, why should fans care about this sequel?

Well, any fan of the original I’ve talked to has been dying for a sequel, so I never needed to make any of them care about it. Not hating it, that’s another matter. It’s in the world of The Strangers, but it’s still… Different from the first.

I think that’s a good reason for fans of The Strangers to care is that we set out to make a movie in the world of The Strangers, but not make the same movie as the original. I mean, that’s what I’d want. I don’t want the same movie, but travel along a similar path. As for everyone else, I think it’s a terrifically fun horror entry, clearly made by talented, passionate people, who love their horror.

It’s a fun, heightened, fever dream of a slasher flick. R Rated. If that’s your sort of thing, celebrate it at the box office and in it’s life after. Shows the world that we like this kind of thing, give us more,​

Is there potential for a franchise after Prey at Night?

Hmmmmmmmmmmmm…. Aaaaaaaaah… Let’s see what the box office says. I really dig this world, this franchise. I think there’s a lot to explore.​

It looks like you have some great action scenes, how fun were these to film?

They. Were. Totally fun! And exhausting. There’s a scene at a pool, was just a ball to be a part of. That’s a moment, which I had a few of, where in between setups I took a step back, looked at everything, the actions taking place, the lights, the cameras (under and over water), and the seriously terrific actors I was with and just thought… “This is pretty friggin cool.” Really nice playground they set up for us and let us run around in.​

How does Prey at Night compare to the original film?

I personally, as a horror fan, think it’s a really great companion piece. It’s different enough to sit along nicely with the original, but as I said earlier, the playground is different. A little bigger. It’s sort of how ALIENS was to ALIEN, not that I’m saying it’s ALIENS, I just mean in tone similarity and differential to the original. Or a REC 2 to REC. ​

Will the killers be given any backstory this time round? 

Yes, there’s a flashback to when The Man in the Mask was the owner of a struggling thrift store. It really gives some insight to him as a person, and why he does what he does. No, I’m kidding. The Strangers are a mystery. In fact, I shouldn’t even be talking to you.

Or is it scarier to have killers without motives doing these acts?

I think it’s probably scarier to have a killer or killers with no motive. It’s unfathomable to think of as the victim. “Why are you doing this to us?” is a valid question. If there are motives, reasons, then maybe you can start to identify, or at least have an understanding.

Money, revenge, cheating spouse, drowned in a lake and killed my mother, these are all reasons to send someone to villainous ways. But when you don’t have the slightest idea why they’re doing it, can’t reason with them, can’t talk that out with them… That’s pretty scary.

The Strangers: Prey at Night is out now in the US, and will be released on 4th May in the UK.

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