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Madelaine Petsch & Froy Gutierrez: The Strangers - Chapter 1 stars reveal what scares them most

Madelaine Petsch & Froy Gutierrez: ‘The Strangers - Chapter 1’ stars reveal what scares them most

[L-R] Froy Gutierrez as “Ryan” and Madelaine Petsch as “Maya” in THE STRANGERS - Chapter 1, a Lionsgate release. Photo Credit: John Armour for Lionsgate.
John Armour for Lionsgate

Plus, they open up about how their terrifying new home invasion film is actually about the power of love over fear.

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Horror as a genre has always been for us queer folks. Tales of outsiders surviving against all the odds. Loveable weirdos. Rejection of the status quo. Oh yes, we love the genre.

So naturally The Strangers — Chapter 1 was guaranteed to top our must-watch list, but then you add that it stars two of our absolute faves: Madelaine Petsch who stole our hearts as queer it-girl Cherry Blossom in Riverdale, and Froy Gutierrez who is, well, baby girl… oh yeah, we never had a chance. Not to mention this film is kicking off a trilogy of new horror entries in one of our favorite franchises, The Strangers.

Much like the film that started it all in 2008, this new “chapter” follows a young couple who find themselves very much in the wrong place at the wrong time. Traveling across the country Maya (Petsch) and Ryan (Gutierrez) stop for a quick bite at a remote diner, only to discover that their car has broken down. Forced to spend the night in a remote cabin, it doesn’t take long for them to realize that they’re not alone. Terrified and isolated, they have to face off with three masked strangers with seemingly no motive but who are intent on killing the couple. It’s a night that will test their wits, their will, and yes, their love.

I think what’s really special about The Strangers is the contrast between the love that’s present and the abject horror that’s happening on screen,” Gutierrez tells PRIDE. The couple when we meet them, like any couple, have their struggles but there’s nothing quite like being stalked by masked killers to snap your priorities into perspective, he explains. “At the beginning, there’s a lot of noise going on but when there’s a situation that’s truly life or life or death, it makes you say the thing that you’ve been afraid to say to your partner. That kind of dynamic and that love being present is a way to ground the movie in the horror of it all.”

As the film is the opening chapter in a new trilogy, it hints at a variety of themes and plot points that aren’t totally explored; yet, in the film, but they are laying the groundwork for the thrills and chills to come. In particular, the film hints at a larger conspiracy perhaps rooted in religious fundamentalism. And of course, like the previous films in the series, TSC1 explores the terrifying senselessness of violence.

Watch PRIDE’s full interview with Madelaine Petsch and Froy Gutierrez below.

“I think this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to some of the themes you’re talking about,” agrees Petsch. “We even explore those so much more in chapters two and three. This comes back to my childhood, of feeling like an outsider all the time. There’s something about this film that really is anti-outsider, which I find really interesting. And kind of like alienating in a sense,” she tells PRIDE.

But underscoring it all for Petch is also that same theme of the perseverance of love, or more specifically, “learning how to love through really constant battle and dealing with these really tough situations with love, I don’t think you’ve seen horror films often.”

Madelaine Petsch as \u201cMaya\u201d in THE STRANGERS - Chapter 1, a Lionsgate release.

John Armour for Lionsgate

While love may be at the center of the film, terror is at its surface. There’s something particularly chilling about the home invasion subgenre, in part because it feels so… tangible. But Gutierrez says it’s something even deeper than that. “The house is like the most sacred location that we can have nowadays. Since the pandemic and working from home, we’re a lot more attached to where we live day to day. So it’s a lot more like a special place to us and to have that violated is so terrifying,” he explains.

As for what scares the actors themselves? “Ghosts and demons,” confesses Gutierrez. “The home invasion thing I’m cool about — well, not cool with that, but it doesn’t terrorize me the way that a Ouija board might. I grew up Mexican Catholic, so I have some superstitions that I’ve hung on to.”

The Strangers from THE STRANGERS - Chapter 1, a Lionsgate release.

John Armour for Lionsgate

I’m more afraid of the home invasion,” says a surprised Petsch, whose fears are more grounded in the mundane. “There’s something about the innate fear of just being a woman walking down the street that comes up with that. So I feel like that just kind of is amplified when I’m home alone. Unfortunately.” While that answer is all too relatable it’s also that same anxiety that The Strangers films so effectively mines. And unlike in the real-world, the films give us a place to go, experience that fear, process it, then get up and walk away from it when the credits roll. Well, at least until Chapter 2 drops which, Petsch confirms is coming “very soon my friend, very soon!”

'The Strangers - Chapter 1' arrives in theaters May 17. Watch the trailer below.

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Rachel Shatto

EIC of PRIDE.com

Rachel Shatto, Editor in Chief of PRIDE.com, is an SF Bay Area-based writer, podcaster, and former editor of Curve magazine, where she honed her passion for writing about social justice and sex (and their frequent intersection). Her work has appeared on Elite Daily, Tecca, and Joystiq, and she podcasts regularly about horror on the Zombie Grrlz Horror Podcast Network. She can’t live without cats, vintage style, video games, drag queens, or the Oxford comma.

Rachel Shatto, Editor in Chief of PRIDE.com, is an SF Bay Area-based writer, podcaster, and former editor of Curve magazine, where she honed her passion for writing about social justice and sex (and their frequent intersection). Her work has appeared on Elite Daily, Tecca, and Joystiq, and she podcasts regularly about horror on the Zombie Grrlz Horror Podcast Network. She can’t live without cats, vintage style, video games, drag queens, or the Oxford comma.