The Linda Vista Hospital in Los Angeles has served as the home to many film productions, both of the Hollywood and independent variety. You need a hospital reception desk? You got it. A creepy file room or ominous hallways? The Linda Vista – with its dark recesses, rusty pipes and weathered walls – can hook you up.
Today, the Blumhouse production, Insidious Chapter 2, is making the most of this location, utlizing not just its built-in atmosphere (the team is shooting a hospital sequence) but its expansive rooms to construct sets to resemble those seen in the first Insidious. For instance, a former chapel is now house the Lambert family living room. Elsewhere, another room has been blackened out – floor to ceiling – and, when pumped full of fog – will transport its actors into The Further.
Ah, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s first reflect on the fact that we’re standing on the set of the sequel in the first place.
When Insidious was released in 2011, it became the most profitable film of the year, grossing nearly $100 million worldwide. Director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell’s careers were back in the spotlight for the first time since debuting on the genre scene since SAW. (Although the duo gave us Dead Silence and Death Sentence, neither of those films quite captured SAW’s success.) Insidious changed the game for the duo once again and by the time their film ran its course at the box office, there were already rumblings of a sequel, however, producer Jason Blum, Wan and Whannell would deny it. But any horror fan worth his or salt knows that any sort of profit in our beloved genre means “sequel” and, sure enough, Insidious Chapter 2 was born, reuniting the first film’s team and welcoming newcomers like Jocelin Donahue and Lindsay Seim playing young Lorraine and Elise (Barbara Hershey and Lin Shaye’s characters), respectively. The follow-up hits theaters on September 13th from FilmDistrict.
When ShockTillYouDrop.com arrives on the set, we observe a quiet – but unsettling – moment among Lorraine, Specs (Whannell), Tucker (Angus Sampson) and a new character named Carl (Steve Coulter). The dialogue plays out like this:
Carl: Why was he here in the first place?
Lorraine: He tried to castrate himself?
F’in yikes! Clearly, someone was hospitalized for attempting something unthinkable. But who is “he”? And why would he castrate himself? Answers are hard to find on the set of Insidious Chapter 2, but we try to uncover what we can. The following is a play-by-play of the “press conference style” Q&A that we participate in with Hershey, Shaye, Blum, Whannell, Wan, Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne. The team’s camaraderie is palpable and they’re prone to joking, making for an easy-going environment.
Read on for more! (And click any of the “first look images” for hi-res versions.)
Question: What makes this different from the first film and what was it like jumping into this universe again?
Leigh Whannell: For me, it’s surreal because this is a sequel that literally brings back everyone. For some sequels, they’ll bring back a couple of characters. But, everyone is back, so it’s surreal. And they’re also wearing the same clothes [laughs] as they wore in the same film. Patrick’s here and he’s dressed the same. But it’s great to have the band back together.
Jason Blum: How did the story come about?
Whannell: Um, the first film made some money and then you said write a sequel.
Blum: That’s not how it happened. Get cracking!
Whannell: Well, it’s hard to go into the usual answer of what’s different about this without ruining anything. What’s different about it is it’s a continuation of the first film. It picks up from where the other one left off. It’s the second half of the first film.
Question: This one goes into the past a bit, lending itself a Godfather Part II aspect.
Whannell: Yeah, well, with the first film there was this single driving thing they were trying to fix. This film is bigger than that.
Lin Shaye: It’s a bit of a murder mystery as well, which I thought was a wonderful addition to the story. In addition to being supernatural, it’s also trying to solve this crime.
Patrick Wilson: Because we established the rules and you have to assume not everyone has seen the first one, you’ve got those little nods of like this is where we go, and this is what happens, because we had done all of that… Selfishly, for me, it was exciting because at the end [of the first one, my character] either gets cured or he’s fighting his way back. Clearly, there’s a duality of “what happens to the Josh here.” It feels like an adult drama gone wrong with a supernatural element. Even moreso here because of the presence of Barbara a bit more, it’s not just a clashing of the husband and wife, but of the son and the mother. It’s exciting to play and explore. With the two movies Leigh has written, we get the language and world we’re in.
Question: Were there any questions you had about your characters after the first film?
Shaye: I just came up with a bunch of whole new characters like, can I go shopping in The Further? [laughs] There was something that James and I touched on that we haven’t completely solvedand I’m not sure we will: Is there anything different about Elise in The Further than when she is in the real world? And I’ve been investigating that in my own way and tonight we filmed a scene where you first see me back [from The Further], so I’m wondering what moments there might be between me and Patrick. What has freed Elise? I have an idea, but I don’t know if I should say because I haven’t brought it up to James yet. But I have thought about what would make her different? It’s exciting and I love the character. I love that people have embraced her.
Whannell: One of the interesting things about the first one is just the reaction from people. The first half of the film sets up a fairly traditional haunted house film. It’s really well done. And then it starts to go into The Further and these outlandish concepts. James and I have noticed the film is fairly polarizing, because you’d get, “The film was great up until this point.” We always said, when we were doing press for the first film, we want to throw everything and the kitchen sink with these crazy moments. We could not have made the first half of the film for the whole movie. We kind of liked that it descended into chaos. What’s interesting about the sequel, everyone knows that about the movie – The Further and these crazy ideas – these are already established…
Wilson: Or, you and Angus.
Whannell: [laughs] Yeah, people would be like, “The movie is great until the Ghostbusters show up!”
Blum: That was me. I was wrong. Leigh, the movie is great, but you have to cut yourself out.
Whannell: With the sequel, all of that stuff from the very start – these crazy ideas – like Patrick said, the world has been set.
Blum: I have to tell my story a little bit better and properly give Leigh credit. I saw Insidious at James’ house and I loved it, I thought it was scary, but I said to Leigh, there’s just too much Specs and Tucker. Leigh was a huge sport about it. James cut it down a bit.
Whannell: Like a true Hollywood producer, I believe you were like, “You’re too good in the movie. You’re too funny.”
Blum: We screened the movie before a test screening and the best reaction we got was for Specs and Tucker and I asked them to put it all back in the movie. [laughs]
Question: How much more time do we spend in The Further in the sequel?
Whannell: Hard to say without ruining it. We spent some time following Patrick’s character in it in the first film, but now he’s starting from a point where he has knowledge of this place. As we’ve been shooting this with these guys, watching what they are doing, I feel like everyone is living in this world and trying to treat it very seriously, nobody is trying to turn it into camp. Constantly, the actors are like, how can we make this more real. We’re trying to keep this firmly based in reality. One of the great things about a haunted house movie is watching unsuspecting people slowly uncover something is wrong. With this, we’re using the same family and we’re missing the lack of knowledge you would normally get. We’re not changing to a different family, we needed to come up with something really scary. So when something peeks around the corner, they’re not like “What’s that?” They know exactly what it is… [laughs] But I think we came up with something that could scare the family anew. Something that could turn it around and different angle. It almost takes the film into a new genre, almost.
Wilson: A western…
Blum: A romantic comedy. [laughs]
Whannell: And scary set pieces. James and I feel like we almost exhausted every scare scene we had in the first film. We built up this trunk of scary scenes and we used them all. [laughs]
Question: Barbara, we’ve learned that there are going to be flashbacks to your character when she was younger. Did you work with Jocelin Donahue – who plays your younger self – at all to help her find the character?
Barbara Hershey: Yeah, we got into a conversation. I don’t think I had to tell her much. The script was really good and I just supplemented it.
Wilson: She just gave her a copy of the first one and said, “Watch this!”
Hershey: Copy me exactly. [laughs] But yeah, she was great.
Shaye: It was interesting for me, because when they said they were finding actors to play us young, the idea of me being objectified… As an actor, I spend a great deal of effort to never objectify myself because I can’t look at myself. And, to all of a sudden, see James go, “Yeah, we need someone a little bit quirky like Lin,” I’m going, oh my God, what do I do? It was interesting to have that elemented added. And here, they’re really young. But I think both actresses, they both embodied a feeling of who we both are and they did a good job.
Question: James, what was your decision to come back for a sequel?
James Wan: I had such a good time working with these guys on the first one. Leigh and I always joke that the first SAW film where we shut the door with Jigsaw, that was the end of that film, you know? This one, we had other plans and ideas with it. So, we thought we’d see how the first Insidious goes and if we had the chance, we’d pull out that second storyline we had in mind and continue on.
Question: How much of chapter 2 was in your thoughts during the first film?
Wan: It’s tricky to talk about without giving anything away. What have you said?
Whannell: I said it’s a continuation of the first film and it picks right up…
Wan: That’s the reason we didn’t want to call it Part 2 or Insidious II. It’s literally Chapter 2. We love the idea that it’s like a book in chapters and we thought it was a cool sequel title. There are things we’re doing where the second movie visits the first movie. That’s all I’ll say.
Question: Is this a tighter production than the first one where you have 25 days?
Blum: This is like Transformers compared to the first one. The first one was 20-21. We have a few more resources this time.
Wan: It still has that same indie spirit as the first film. I think keeping it in line with the first film is the right spirit.
Question: James and Leigh, what keeps your creative partnership fresh?
Wan: I try to get away from him. [laughs]
Whannell: I don’t know, I guess when you have the same things going, similarities or the same stories exciting you, we’re pretty in sync with one another when it comes to the horror stuff. We spent years telling ghost stories together…
Wilson: Just sitting around telling ghost stories. [laughs]
Whannell: That’s what we’d do.
Wilson: ”And then, James…” [laughs]
Wan: You joke about it, but that’s what we did. We’d scare the crap out of one another! We took all of the scares from the great ghost stories…
Wilson: Sharing lonely nights together…
Wan: That’s sweet.
Whannell: Film is a collaborative medium, so you’re going to end up working with a lot of people. But I think, for me, it’s been really great to work with James. Someone to…
Wan: Bounce ideas.
Whannell: Yeah, bounce ideas.
Shaye: And they’re both good listeners as well as talkers. I see that in you two, you spark ideas in one another.
Hershey: And trust.
Wan: But it’s strictly platonic.
Question: James, what keeps you coming back to the genre?
Wan: Yeah, I just fell into it because my first film out of the gate was financially successful. I want to do something different, this might be my last horror film.
Wan: For now.
Question: Are you closing this off to Chapter 3?
Blum: We’re not even done with Chapter 2 yet, we can’t think that far ahead.