The events that take place in the horror thriller The Strangers will have audiences fearful, but if you ask writer/director Bryan Bertino, it was the behind the scenes that most frightened him.

As a first-time director working with a star-studded cast including Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman, Bertino, 30, admits that during production he was often the most inexperienced person in the room.

“When I sold the script initially I never tried to attach myself as the director because I had no concept of Hollywood,” he says, adding he was very grateful when Rogue Pictures eventually asked him to direct.

Set in a secluded vacation home, The Strangers tells the story of a couple whose getaway turns into a night of terror when three masked strangers attack.

Loosely inspired by Bertino’s penchant for true crime novels like Helter Skelter, the movie largely emphasizes the eeriness of arbitrary violence.

“I have always been drawn to human sadness and fear — both those things cut people to the core … and remind (them) of the things that matter,” he says.

Using natural lighting and warm colours as well as not specifying the geographical location were employed to help place audience members inside the house, thus heightening the fear.

“I didn’t want people to have a safety net,” explains the Los Angeles-based Bertino.

“Emphasizing the randomness, emphasizing that it could happen to anybody is a really crucial thing.”

Another important factor was adding drama and depth to the characters, he says.

“I wanted people to care about (James and Kristen) as if the strangers never came to the door.”

When casting, the goal was to get actors fresh to the horror genre and what appealed to Bertino about both Tyler and Speedman was their experience yet lack of typecasting.

“I felt like it gave me the plus of being able to have some familiarity while at the same time not being so locked in that you were amazed that they were going in a different direction.”

>> The Strangers opens next Friday.

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