Actor Damian Maffei (“The Strangers: Prey at Night”) took some time to talk with Horrornews.net for an exclusive interview about his new film, HAUNT. “Haunt” was written and directed by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods. Damian is a theatre trained actor with a quick sense of humor. He is talented and has created two iconic characters in the Horror genre. The Man in the Mask and now the Devil. He knows his stuff when it comes to films and making movies. He shares an awesome story about working with his talented wife in “Guys and Dolls.” Damian Maffei is beyond talented. Check out what he had to say. A Horrornews.net exclusive.
HAUNT is in theaters and On Demand September 13th.
“On Halloween, a group of friends encounter an “extreme” haunted house that promises to feed on their darkest fears. The night turns deadly as they come to the horrifying realization that some monsters are real.”
You almost quit acting. Why and what made you come back? We are certainly happy you did come back.
Damian- Yeah, I did quit. I made a Facebook post about it. When “The Strangers: Prey at Night” came around, one of the producers, Jon Wagner who I met years ago on the first movie he was producing. We got along and we tried to do things here and there. I did a short film that he directed “Wildfires.” I wasn’t enjoying myself anymore. It was kind of misery or bad parts and struggling here and there. It is not really acting (in “The Strangers: Prey at Night”) so I thought it would be an exercise in frustration to have a bag on my head. I remembered the first movie which I enjoyed, quite a bit. The villains in that one, you don’t really see them. They are kind of in the background which is part of how effective it is and I didn’t want to do that. But, he sent me the script anyway and I read it. I read the scene with the father, in the van and I said this is pretty cool. This scene here, might be worth it… and, I did it.
That is movie history!
Damian- That was that.
I think you, Emma Bellomy (Dollface) and Lea Enslin (Pinup) made that movie.
Damian- That was part of it too. That’s the thing with playing the masked killer in these movies. Whoever releases a clip, our names don’t get mentioned because we’re just “monsters.” But, even the most scathing reviews of “The Strangers: Prey at Night” they managed to drop my name in there, which I appreciate. The horror fans, they’re the ones that watch the movie and they go we want to find out who played these people. They are the ones that will find me on Instagram or Twitter or whatever and that is cool.
The horror fans (Myself included) are a dedicated bunch.
Damian- Yeah they are. For years and years it is the only genre where you can put together a low-budget movie without any names in it and it can find a home, it can find its way.
Did you always know that you wanted to be an actor?
Damian- Growing up as a kid, as so many people tend to do. Grow up as kid. I was a big movie fan. I would kind of picture myself in those movies as a character. It wasn’t really until high school, I took my first acting class and then I was forced to audition for the school musicals as a requisite of that class. It wasn’t until I did that first play in high school and had that rush of people enjoying it. Also, it was the last thing you expected ME to be doing in high school. I was the people’s champion there so I was like, wow, I’m great at this. Obviously, I am going to go on and be a huge success which isn’t how it works but that’s what I thought then.
Do you remember some of the plays that you did in high school?
Damian- Sure. The first year I had to audition for “Annie.” I got a very small part of Cordell Hull in “Annie.” I turned it down… or I just didn’t do it? Then the next year I took the next acting class. It is funny because it’s an acting class and you have to audition for the musical but you don’t have to do it. Then the next year they were doing, “Little Shop of Horrors” and I auditioned and everyone was like, they’ll want you as the dentist. You’ll be a great dentist and I thought, that’s cool, a little Steve Martin. Maybe I could do that. I auditioned and they cast me as the voice of Audrey II, the plant and I was like, Okay, I’ll do it. I pretty much did an impression of Levi Stubbs from the movie. (Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
Ahhh, okay. That’s cool though!
Damian- But, it was a great impression. People loved it. They don’t want to go see “Little Shop of Horrors” in high school and its some different take on the plant. So, it was good. It was good production for high school level. We had a good bit of talent. One of my closest friends, still till this day, I met him during that. He was the puppeteer of the plant, Brian James Fitzpatrick.
You were in the pit doing the voice of Audrey II?
Damian- Yeah, I was not on-stage. I did not make my stage appearance until next year. I did the voice from the pit and then next year they did “Once Upon a Mattress” and I played Prince Dauntless in that.
“Little Shop of Horrors” is a classic for sure.
Damian- It’s a great one.
How did you get involved with HAUNT? It is incredible by the way.
Damian- HAUNT, that was Jon Wagner (The Strangers: Prey at Night), whom I mentioned before. He contacted me a couple of months after Strangers and said we’re doing an Eli Roth movie and there are some good villain parts that I think you would be a good fit for. I was like, Eh, here we go with the villain thing. He sent me the script and I read it. I was like, oh this is a lot of fun. This is a slasher flick. I said, when is it shooting and he said, we are shooting all of October and I guess half of November. I said, okay well my wife is due to give birth to our third child and he said, well you know I am not going to have anything to do with you missing the birth of your child. So forget it, we’ll get together on the next one. I was like, well, wait a minute. It’s my third child, it’s not like it’s my first one. If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. He wanted nothing to do with it. I wound up talking to the directors (Scott Beck and Bryan Woods). They called me in there and they were looking at me for the Ghost and then the Clown. I was like, I really like this Devil guy and I think they saw that in me. So, that’s what we did. I liked his deal.
Me too. You didn’t miss the birth of your child did you?
Damian- No! I did not! No. It was pretty early in the morning and I wrapped for the day and I got there and jumped on a plane, went home to get there the next day. We had another little baby dude. Then, I went back.
That’s great! Did you know that they were going to do that to your face? Besides the mask, it is kind of like you still are wearing another mask?
Damian- I did. I knew that it would be expensive prosthetics. They had to shave my head. I shaved my head. I flown in earlier so they could do the cast and the wardrobe fitting. I was supposed to be red originally, you know like the devil.
Why do you think the Devil does show his face? He is fear provoking and there is definitely a different demeanor to him.
Damian- I’m not saying it’s because it’s me. It was what was most appealing to me. About the character is that they are all pretty bad people. I felt that he was the worst of the bunch. The worst offender. While they are scrambling around to clean up and keep up with the program. He is just kind of like a rogue menace, he is kind of off doing his own thing. He adheres to the rules that they have set up for themselves but he is the most dangerous of the bunch. That is why he shows his face. He feels it is an effective tool to further drive the fear into his prey.
Could you actually see Katie Stevens and Andrew Caldwell’s faces when they first saw you? Both of them legitimately looked scared shitless.
Damian- Yeah! I could see them. Seeing through the mask wasn’t an issue. It was moving in the robes which was the problem.
Yeah and you had the pitchfork and robes and they looked really long.
Damian- They were long so I kept tripping. There is lots of b-roll of me tripping all over the place. When you couldn’t see my feet in the shot, they were hemmed up.
I guess without giving spoilers away, do you have a favorite scene from HAUNT?
Damian- It was all just fun. It was just nonsense and fun. Who wouldn’t love doing that? I guess my favorite scene is probably the scene where I come in and back her up against a chain link fence and take off my mask. Then some fool pops out from behind the curtain. It was just all fun. A rip-roaring good time.
(I think both of us *sighed* DARN YOU WILL BRITTAIN.)
What was it like for you working with Scott Beck and Bryan Woods?
Damian- They are great! I think that was the first time I ever worked with two directors. I have done a couple of things with Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer (“Starry Eyes”) they are friends of ours. Everything I ever did with them was always Kevin directing and Dennis producing. They are great. They are both on the same page. So you know you can go up to one of them and talk to them and the other guy isn’t going to swoop in with a different idea. They are in tune with one another. They are horror nerds.
I probably drove everyone crazy about HAUNT, which is nothing new. I wanted to review it because it is a film, I will be watching every year. It hits a lot of good points.
But, it was beautifully shot. There are certain scenes that really stand out. The scene where the Clown slowly closes the garage door. The entrance you make as the Devil.
Damian- It’s beautifully shot by one of the best today, Ryan Samul who also did “Strangers: Prey at Night,” he is brilliant. It’s got a really great, cool score by tomandandy who scored some great stuff. The sound design which is such a key component in movies and its always overlooked. It is a slasher film but it has some special things going on. It is a cut above some of the rest.
The masks are so cool. They kind of reminded me of the masks from when I was a kid. They has so much detail and looked so cool. It makes you think, oh gosh, what are these people doing?
Damian- The mask are really cool. I saw mine and I was in love with it. These guys are running this shady HAUNT and the wardrobe is kind of cheap robes that you’d find at like a party store. They are running this traveling HAUNT so quality wardrobe isn’t a big concern.
What can you tell us about the prosthetics and make-up/effects and who was responsible for the incredible work?
Damian- Chris Bridges and Hugo Villasenor did the prosthetics on all of us. Mine took about three hours a day to put on. They are great! They are a lot of fun.
Do you sit forever or do you kind of get a break?
Damian- I think they adapt with me, I did take a little break. It was for them too.
What are you working on next?
Damian- I start shooting a movie in two weeks. Right now I am not allowed to officially discuss. It is going to be amazing.
Is there anything you can tell us about “A Nun’s Curse?”
Damian- That was a fun one to do. I don’t have a mask on. That’s nice.
That is nice.
Damian- We shot that in South Carolina. Tommy Faircloth directed that. He is a good human. He is a lot of fun. It is almost worth it just to do anything, if he’s involved. That was a reunion of me and Felissa Rose, we were in a movie together called, “Nikos the Impaler” (2003). It was like no time had passed. It was a lot of fun.
Do you have a favorite of the characters you have played so far? Or do they all mean something different to you?
Damian- “The Strangers: Prey at Night” was sort of a big life change for me. I was on that set every day. That will always be special to me because it kind of yanked me back out of something and into something completely different. Prey at Night and HAUNT. I like both of those guys. They are fun.
What do you think about the horror conventions and the fans? The fans dressing like you. The Man in the Mask. I saw a few recently at Monster Mania. Do you hope to see some Devil’s next?
Damian- It’s amazing! I love it. I love that I could do something or continue on with something that’s kind of inspired and not disgusted people. They kind of want to run around as that. Anyone that takes the time to come up to me and wants to talk to me about anything I’ve done, that is amazing. I go to these things and I just want to talk about horror. I am always happy to talk about anything I am involved in. The conventions have been great. I hope I see a couple of Devils.
What are some of your favorite horror movies?
Damian- “Black Christmas” is probably my favorite. It’s picked up steam over the years. It is not on the level where it should be. It should be as warmly embraced as a “Halloween” or something. There is no one to dress up as. No iconic killer to put on a cool shirt. So, “Black Christmas” all day. I got favorites. I got some obvious ones. “Jaws”, “Alien”, “The Exorcist” are all very beloved by me. “Alice, Sweet Alice.” “The Tenant” (1976) by Polanski. The seventies is my favorite decade for horror movies.
How do feel Horror films are doing now versus the seventies?
Damian- I think there is good stuff going on today. There are some amazing filmmakers out there doing some groundbreaking stuff. It seems like the horror fandom or at least the people I see consider the eighties as the great decade. Nostalgia to me is a little poisonous. The eighties had some great stuff but I don’t think it is anywhere near what the seventies had. Each decade has its strong game-changing or lasting movies. “The Descent” (2006), it’s brilliant. It’s a favorite of mine. I really liked “Hereditary” (2018) I felt “Hereditary” was sort of a distance cousin of Polanski’s apartment trilogies. I really enjoyed it. I really liked “Get Out” and “Us.” I could just talk forever about movies.
With Halloween coming up, do you have any traditional movies you watch year after year?
Damian- I definitely have to watch, “Night of the Living Dead” (1968) on Halloween. That’s kind of my traditional movie. That’s where I would come home from trick–or-treating and God bless my parents, they would say, your movies coming on. It is black and white, it’s spooky and perfect. I try to get into the Halloween spirit. I watch horror movies all the time. I have kids so I try to find appropriate Halloween themed things to share with them, depending on which kid it is. They aren’t really interested in horror movies.
I was happy that they used the clip from “Night of the Living Dead” in “Haunt.”
What do you want to say to the fans who watch your films and to the audiences/fans that will be watching HAUNT?
Damian- Go see HAUNT! Go into with open arms, knowing what it is. It’s a fun, Halloween slasher flick. I think if you go into it with that you’ll enjoy it. Hopefully it finds its way into Halloween rotation. When you do a horror movie that takes place in the fall and that’s your ultimate goal that it finds its way into Halloween rotation. That is what I’m hoping for “Haunt.” I see over the years when October rolls around and people are putting on “Haunt.” That to me would be great.
I know I will be adding it to my Halloween list.
Damian- There you go.
Damian tells jokes. He’s got three kids. He’s got a ten pound dog.
Do you think theatre has helped you more with films?
Damian- It’s helped me stay on my toes and adapt to be in the moment. In live theatre stuff happens, things fall down, people don’t come in on time, lights go out, and people in the audience do weird things and people think it’s a trick. The music doesn’t start. I did a show, a production of “Guys and Dolls” and the lead had lost her voice or something. They were going to cancel that performance but this person had come to see the show who they had known. They said, hey what do you know about “Guys and Dolls.” She was like, oh I am a fan of musical theatre. They said, would you like to take the book and go on-stage and just kind of do it with the book onstage. She was like, yes I will do it. This actress jumped into this role with the fucking script in her hand and she didn’t know any of the choreography. We gave this complete crash course. She had a passing knowledge of the songs. I just kind of like swung her through the choreography. Sometimes she’d drop the book, the script. It was pretty amazing. It was probably the best experience acting-wise I’ve had. I was just so enthused and ready for anything. I was ready for her to do anything and help her through anything. It was great and we got married a couple of years later and we are still married.
That is awesome. I love that. So you got to do “Guys and Dolls” with your wife?
Damian- Yeah! She is very talented. She was wonderful too. It was great. That kind of stuff helps in movies. Something goes wrong in a movie and they cut and redo it. The thing with movies is that any good performance you see in movies is so impressive because that means that actor did all the work on they’re own. You find things that work, things that don’t work.
Are there any great performances by actors in films that stand out to you?
Damian- George C. Scott as “Patton.” Guy Pierce in “Memento.” The things that you can’t teach in acting school. I was just watching the show “Fosse/Verdon” with Sam Rockwell and Michele Williams. They are both wonderful. Sam Rockwell is a brilliant, brilliant actor. It made me want to revisit another one of my favorite performances, which is Roy Scheider in “All That Jazz” by Bob Fosse which he should have won the super fucking Oscar for… but, he was robbed.
I agree! The HAUNT Fright-Rags t-shirt is out. (Follow @frightrags on Twitter)
Damian– I don’t need Oscars! I have two Fright Rags t-shirts with mask on them. Movies with my face underneath the mask.
Were you excited when you saw the new shirt?
Damian- I was! I did know it was coming. I didn’t know what it would look like.
I kind of wanted them to move the GHOST face over just a little bit.
Damian- YEAH!!!! You know when it came out, my face is covered again. How about a shirt with the kids at the bottom and then HAUNT in the background and the Devil is just looming over them
We will have to start a campaign to FRIGHT RAGS!
It was such an honor to talk to you. You did a kick ass job in “Haunt.” I thank you taking the time to talk to Horrornews.net
Damian- Thank you for taking the time to ask me all these questions.
As an actor you are one of the best. You create memorable characters so thank you. As for Man in the Mask, you are the Man in the Mask.
Damian- I appreciate that. I’d do it again by the way.
I thank you so much Damian.
Damian- You got it. Anytime. Thank you.
Damian’s IMDB www.imdb.com/name/nm0535541/