Conversations | Johannes Roberts

by Charles Kirkland Jr.

In preparation for the release of his latest movie, The Strangers: Prey At Night, I had the opportunity to speak with director Johannes Roberts. The surprisingly candid English director spoke about his past (47 Meters Down), present (The Strangers 2) and future (48 Meters Down) in film making. The following is a snippet of that conversation.
CK: Good Morning Mr. Roberts! I’m very glad to have this opportunity to speak with you today.
JR: Well thanks for having me.

CK: Let’s start with the current movie. Tell me about The Strangers 2: Prey At Night.
JR: First of all, it’s not Strangers 2. It’s Prey At Night. I wanted to create a movie that was in the canon of The Strangers but not a direct sequel.

CK: Does that mean that there could be other movies that happen in between those two movies?
JR: The studio can do whatever it wants. There’s plenty of room in the middle and at the end.

CK: Speaking of room, there certainly has been a lot of room in between the two movies. How did you get involved in this project and when?
JR: From what I’ve heard there have been many versions of this film prior to this one. I know that the studio had a lot of things going on with this movie for years but I signed on about a year and a half ago which gave me plenty of time to work on it.

CK: That’s funny because the rumors were that everything was rushed in the production of the movie. Even that you had to shoot the scenes with Christina Hendricks and Martin Henderson in a week.
JR: That’s odd. I had heard those things too but Christina was on set for a month. We took our normal time in development and filming. Everything was pretty normal. I don’t know where those stories came from.

CK: You know Hollywood loves a good back story. Tell me about your vision for the movie.
JR: When I was going into the movie, I just wanted to make a simple slasher movie you know like John Carpenter’s Halloween. You know a real retro feel.

CK: I’m glad you said that. I believe that the retro feel is prominent in the film. You were very successful in re-creating that 80’s slasher film feel from the very start with the music, title screen and opening credits.
JR: Thanks. It’s good to know that I succeeded there. Carpenter has been a big influence on me in this field.

CK: I see Halloween and I see even Christine and The Car in this film.
JR: Yes but we can’t give too much away.

CK: Agreed. Writer Bryan Bertino claims that The Strangers is based on a true story that he adapted from the news when he was young and therefore this movie can continue the “based on a true story” promotion line. How much of your previous work has been “based on a true story?”
JR: I can’t say that any of my work is ripped from the papers or the news but to me, the best horror has to be pretty grounded in reality. There has to be a point of relevance where the viewer can say ‘this could happen to me’ to make it really work.

The best horror has to be pretty grounded in reality. There has to be a point of relevance where the viewer can say ‘this could happen to me’ to make it really work!” – Johannes Roberts

CK: I guess you can see that in your last film 47 Meters Down.
JR: Absolutely! It’s a story that could have come right out of Shark Week.

CK: I hear that you’re working on a sequel to that film called 48 Meters Down. Can you tell us anything about that movie?
JR: Well much like The Strangers, it’s not really a sequel but another story. The best way to describe it would be 47 Meters (Down) meets The Descent where these divers discover some underwater caves.

CK: OK, I’ve got goosebumps already! You had me at The Descent which happens to be one of my favorites!
JR: We should be starting shooting in a couple of months for release next year.

CK: Can’t wait! Let’s talk career. You’ve been doing this (directing) for almost two decades now. What is your favorite of your movies or the movie you had the best experience in making?
JR: Wow that’s a great question. You know like a good father, you love all your children…

CK: Yes but as a father myself, I know that there is usually one that you sometimes smile a little more about.
JR: Hmmm. I guess I would have to say F. It wasn’t the best received movie nor did it do well in the theaters but I had a lot of fun making it. There was no pressure from studios when I was making it. It was just fun. For those who haven’t seen it, it is the story of a group of high school children getting revenge on their teachers. It was bloody fun.

CK: Was that a pun or English?
JR: Uh, yes.

CK: Well with that I guess I’ll wrap this up. Congratulations on Prey At Night. Again you did a great job on the retro feel of it and it is a pretty fun ride. Hope it does well and I look forward to 48 Meters Down and everything else you have coming. Thanks again for taking the time to speak with me.
JR: Thank you.