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Arts

Once Afraid of Horror, a Dallas Native Now Toplines a Terror Trilogy

Froy Gutierrez is the male lead in The Strangers: Chapter 1, a creepy reimagining of the 2008 horror film that recently opened in theaters.
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Froy Gutierrez is hunted by sadistic killers in the Oregon woods. Lionsgate

Froy Gutierrez admits he was skittish as a youngster, to the extent that watching the M. Night Shyamalan thriller Signs became overwhelming.

The Dallas native and star of The Strangers: Chapter 1 never figured his first cinematic lead role would come in a horror movie — let alone three of them. But a lot has changed about Gutierrez, and his genre sensibilities, since those formative years.

“It took me a while to come back to it,” Gutierrez said. “As I got older, I learned about the ways horror can be very important and allow you to explore things you couldn’t explore in other genres. It was so much more than scares.”

The story follows Gen Z lovers Maya (Madelaine Petsch) and Ryan (Gutierrez) after their car breaks down in rural Oregon, forcing them to spend the night at a remote cabin. They are terrorized by masked intruders and forced to fight for their lives.

The film is the first segment of a new trilogy expanding upon the mythology of the eponymous 2008 horror film, which starred Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman and was directed by Crowley native Bryan Bertino. Gutierrez hadn’t seen the original prior to recording an audition tape from his mother’s home in Dallas, which might have been advantageous in the eyes of director Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2).

“I was aware of how much of a cult classic it was,” Gutierrez said. “I was worried that if I watched the movie, I was going to try and do what Scott Speedman did. I needed to do something different. This is a different character and the dynamics are different. It was important for me to just be Ryan and find Ryan.”

All three films were shot simultaneously (the other two will be released in the coming months). In terms of logistics, the cast and crew treated the project as though they were shooting a five-hour movie. In a few instances, they shot different sequences for all three installments in the same day.

Gutierrez is best known for his roles on MTV’s “Teen Wolf” and Freeform’s “Cruel Summer.” That experience in television prompted a comparison to shooting an entire season’s worth of episodes at once.

“It was a big shock to the system. I knew I would be living on adrenaline and nightmare fuel for two months. It’s a huge challenge to take on,” he said. “Very frequently in TV, you don’t know what’s going to happen at the end. The writers tell you where they think it’s going to go or what you plan toward, but it’s really a practice of living in the moment and making choices with the character that don’t get bigger than the scene you’re in.”

Gutierrez, 26, grew up with a passion for both acting and music in a bilingual and bicultural family split between Texas and Mexico. Following his freshman year at Highland Park High School, he transferred full-time to Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. His start came in local stage productions such as the musical “Teen Brain” at Dallas Children’s Theater, during which he was discovered by an agent.

“I’ve always felt really supported by the Dallas theater community,” Gutierrez said. “At Booker T, I had such incredible teachers and mentors. I’m really grateful that I was able to be part of such a robust theater scene.”

Gutierrez’s other film work includes the low-budget 2020 slasher film Initiation and the Halloween comedy Hocus Pocus 2, a streaming sequel to a movie released before he was born.

After The Strangers: Chapter 1, which opened in theaters last weekend, Gutierrez is returning to television with a supporting role in the new Tim Allen network sitcom pilot “Shifting Gears,” which will shoot this summer.

Author

Todd Jorgenson

Todd Jorgenson

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