“The Strangers” director Renny Harlin recalls his own 'horrifying' home invasion experience

The feeling of "helplessness and a violation of the sanctuary" that accompanied his own 2000 home invasion resurfaced while he was working on the film.

Director Renny Harlin's own home invasion experience helped him tap into The Strangers: Chapter 1, his new horror film about a couple terrorized by masked strangers in a remote cabin.

The filmmaker behind Nightmare on Elm Street 4 and Die Hard 2 recalled his own home invasion experience that occurred in 2000, recounting to PEOPLE the time he awoke to the sound of a stranger "rattling the handle of my bedroom door" at his Beverly Hills home — and his admittedly "stupid" reaction to it.

Related: The Strangers: Chapter 1 trailer recreates scariest moments from original film

"It was horrifying," Harlin recounted, sharing that he was in his locked bedroom with his not-so-little Rhodesian Ridgeback dog named Little. "Before I could even really react, I just sort of sat up and thought, 'What the hell is going on?' Little dove so hard toward the door that she slipped and her whole 150 pounds slammed into the door. She started growling and barking like a maniac."

<p>Vivien Killilea/Getty</p> Renny Harlin attends the Los Angeles premiere of 'The Strangers: Chapter 1'

Vivien Killilea/Getty

Renny Harlin attends the Los Angeles premiere of 'The Strangers: Chapter 1'

Thanks to Little's mighty response, the intruder ran away, but what came next was quite "stupid": Harlin unlocked the door and chased after the stranger. "Somebody's been able to open my gates, and next to my car is a pickup truck," he said, adding that he witnessed "two guys running out the doors, and they dive into the back of the pickup truck and it takes off like in the movies — literally with the tire smoking."

Feeling "furious, violated, and so angry," Harlin got into his car and followed the strangers down Mulholland Drive at roughly 3 a.m. in just his boxer shorts. Of course, police informed him that he made the situation all the more dangerous, as the best course of action in this scenario was to remain in the locked bedroom and call for help. "The only thing that saved me," the officers told Harlin, was Little. "They said, 'Thank your dog because very likely your dog just saved your life."

Want more movie news? Sign up for Entertainment Weekly's free newsletter to get the latest trailers, celebrity interviews, film reviews, and more.

Though the events in The Strangers are "much more visceral and violent" than his own experience, that feeling of "helplessness and a violation of the sanctuary" resurfaced while he was working on the film. "My experience made me realize we are completely at the mercy of just that one bad stroke of luck," Harlin said. "There were moments at night when we were doing these [scenes] where I did step aside and I had tears in my eyes, but I think people thought I was just really tired or something. But I was reliving that situation."

John Armour/Lionsgate Madelaine Petsch in 'The Strangers'
John Armour/Lionsgate Madelaine Petsch in 'The Strangers'

A new take on the 2008 film starring Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman, The Strangers — the first of three chapters — stars Madelaine Petsch and Froy Gutierrez as the couple who come into contact with masked strangers with no clear motive during a stay in a small town. Petsch recently revealed to Entertainment Weekly that one particular sequence, also shown in the trailer, has continued to haunt her: that shower scene, wherein unbeknownst to her character, a masked stranger is in the bathroom with her.

Related: Riverdale stars Madelaine Petsch, Lili Reinhart, and Camila Mendes reunite at The Strangers: Chapter 1 premiere

"Every time I am shampooing my hair, right when the suds are in my eyes, I'm convinced a serial killer is standing outside of my door," Petsch said of incorporating her "worst fear" into the film. "When we shot it, I was like, 'I'm conquering my fear. I'm never gonna feel that way again,'" she added, quipping, "It's actually amplified that fear. It's even worse now."

The Strangers: Chapter 1 is in theaters now.

Read the original article on Entertainment Weekly.