Damian Maffei on Modern Slashers

The slasher subgenre seemed to go quiet for a while after its heyday in the 1980s and ’90s. But in the last five years or so, it’s been creeping back into the mainstream. Some such films are Haunt, The Strangers: Prey at Night, and 2021’s Wrong Turn, all of which feature actor Damian Maffei. At Carolina Fear Fest this past May, I was able to chat with him about his feelings towards the modern slasher, and what he’s got in the works for the future.

The Devil (Damian Maffei), a figure in a red hood wearing a red devil mask, standing in dim hallway. He is holding a three-pronged rake that resembles a pitchfork.
Damian Maffei as the Devil in Haunt.

Emma Gilbert: I noticed something you’re cast in on IMDb called Happy Slashers that sounds really interesting. Is there anything you can tell us about that?

Damian Maffei: Yeah […] Felissa Rose got me involved in that. That was supposed to be like a parody of slasher villains. I think it’s hit some speed bumps […] [There are] some good people involved: me, Felissa, Cheney Morrow from Haunt. But I don’t know where that’s at exactly, but I really like the people involved, and it’s fun, so…I don’t know when that’s gonna surface.

EG: Alright. Well, you were voicing Krueg, totally not Freddy, but since that is a thing, what is your favorite Nightmare on Elm Street franchise film?

Maffei: It’s gonna be the first one, ‘cause […] it’s really the only movie that gave me nightmares, kind of—or maybe, afraid to fall asleep. Really, no other movie [has done that]. ‘Cause it’s about sleep, y’know. […] Now you’re not even safe when you go to sleep. […] That had a big impact on me. I [also] always liked 2 [Freddy’s Revenge], because one of my favorite actors, Clu Gulager, was in it, he plays the father, so that had a special place for me. And Dream Warriors was like…a fun one. I saw it when I was the age of the characters so […] those three are tops.

EG: Oh yeah, definitely. So, you’ve been in a lot of more modern slashers, like The Strangers [Prey at Night] and Haunt and stuff. How do you feel about how slashers are nowadays, and where do you think it [the genre] is going?

Maffei: I think that 2018, when The Strangers [Prey at Night] came out, and Halloween […] was kind of slashers swingin’ back into being embraced and into action […] [There have] been ones with some really [good twists] on ’em, like Happy Death Day kinda had that kind of spin on it. I mean, I like it, [I’ve always been] a big slasher fan […] I’m a little biased towards The Strangers, but, y’know, I always like […] to be able to root for the characters or be invested in them one way or another. I feel like a little more care is taken towards that. I know it’s hard to fill a body count and flesh out characters, but I feel like there’s a little more effort being put into [doing that]. ‘Cause then, when people get killed or whatever, you feel somethin’ about it. But yeah, I think slashers are back. I think it’s kind of a subgenre that is always gonna keep comin’ back.

EG: Absolutely, and I am so happy to see it. It’s probably my favorite subgenre next to…I mean, hell, I love all of it. Alright, I have just one more: what makes a horror movie for you, like, how do you define horror as a genre?

Maffei: Well, that’s a good question. […] Like, Alien and Aliens are two of my favorite movies of all time, and it’s always like, “Are they horror movies?” Y’know, Alien’s this creature, hunting people, pickin’ them off one by one, like, what’s not horror about it? If it was in a house, it’d be a horror movie. So […] like, what makes something a horror movie as opposed to…something like it…

EG: Yeah, it’s hard because it’s so personal for everyone, like what scares us and what gets under our skin.

Maffei: Yeah. I mean, for me, it’s like, the characters who I come [to] be invested in, one way or the other, like’em or not […] seeing bad things happen to people, y’know, you don’t want’em to. That is a tough question…Just bad stuff happenin’ to people is what makes a horror movie!

EG: Yeah, things happening! I love movies where things happen.

Maffei: Yeah, just […] bad stuff happening to’em [the characters]. Although, I guess in a lot of comedies bad stuff happens to people, but I guess bad stuff that scares you [is what makes a horror movie].

The Man in the Mask (Damian Maffei), a man wearing a burlap sack mask with two holes cut out for eyes and a drawn-on mouth, standing outside at night on what appears to be a driveway. He is dressed darkly and an axe dangles from his hand on his left side.
Damian Maffei as the Man in the Mask in The Strangers: Prey at Night

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Written by Emma Gilbert

Emma Gilbert is a 23-year-old from North Carolina who has had a special interest in horror films since she was 14. She's been writing since she was 10 years old, encouraged by her family and friends all the way. Here, she hopes to entertain and enthrall you with trainwreck analyses and lame humor!

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