Focus Features and Blumhouse Productions’ Insidious: Chapter 3 takes a trip back in time before the events of the demons that haunted the Lambert family. Leigh Whannell makes his directorial debut replacing James Wan, who left to direct Furious 7.
Having already written and starred in the first two chapters, Whannell seemed like a natural fit to direct the third. However, in our roundtable interview the director revealed that there were some fears about coming on to a sequel that already has a deep mythology and a fanbase. He also talks about some of the difficulties of writing, directing, and acting simultaneously, the use of practical effects over CG, and meeting expectations. Hit the jump for the interview.
Geeks of Doom: Did you rewrite yourself to take yourself out of the script?
Leigh Whannel: I kind of did. I definitely think that Specs and Tucker are great supporting characters. To use a lame cooking analogy, you just want a hint of that chili. If you dump it in, it just ruins the dish. I really think that a little bit of Specs and Tucker goes a long way, because these films aren’t horror comedies. They’re horror films. But we do love these quirky characters and so I felt like the tight rope I was walking was to have them there just enough to do their thing without tipping the balance of the movie and making it whacky.
It is really hard to act and direct something. Like, I’d be in a scene acting, but I wouldn’t be concentrating on the lines. My inner monologue would just be like “˜You gotta change that, change that jacket, don’t cross your hands, fix that light. So if you watch this film and see me acting, just know that my inner monologue was all over the place.
Lin Shaye: I got to tell you it was very funny watching him put on his Spec’s jacket. As soon as he put his jacket on, his whole demeanor would sort of get, and you can’t see this, but get like you would imagine. This goofy guy. But your timing has been impeccable, always.”
Geeks of Doom: How does this film top the first two?
Leigh Whannell: That’s hard for me to answer. I consider all films to be subjective. I didn’t try and top the first two film as I tried to equal them, because I think that James is such a master of modern horror and I really think he’s the best modern horror film director. And when I saw The Conjuring, which I didn’t write that film and I had nothing to do with it, I really got to watch The Conjuring as a viewer. It’s the only James Wan film, except from Furious 7, that I’ve been able to sit and watch the way you guys watch it. And The Conjuring scared the shit out of me.
When I’m watching Insidious, I’m not scared, I’m just thinking ‘Oh yeah, I was there for that.’ And when I was watching Conjuring, it was crazy. And so, it’s like learning to direct thrillers from Hitchcock. I really think he’s a master of putting these scenes together. So I felt like it was a really big set of shoes to fill. So I just tried to equal. And I think, from what we’ve heard, it really does equal the first film in terms of those shocks.
Lin Shaye: See I also feel that there is something, with all due respect to Wan who did the first two films — they are both masterful in every way — there is a difference of horror in this film than there is in the first two. There is still the traditional scares, and builds to scares, and builds to the jangles. I think it deals with the themes of human loss, and the way the demon, “The Man Who Can’t Breathe,” is almost a recognizable figure. Leigh talks to him as the embodiment of cancer, and I got to say, unfortunately, it gives me chills. Almost everybody in this room has had some brush of some element with that person, even though he is as evil as he is, there is some reality to who this demon is. It is not a red face demon. It is not a lipstick demon. It’s not some guy with hooves, it is some real guy who has been in the hospital. I think that those elements on some level make it scarier in a different kind of way.
Geeks of Doom: Did you have any fears of directing this film after writing the first two and following up the mythology that James Wan directed?
Leigh Whannell: It did seem like the logical fit for me to direct having written the first two films. I had my own fears about it. I had fears about living up to what James did, because he is such a good horror director. What if it fell flat? I also had fears about directing a sequel, not doing something original. I really liked what James did when he came out with Saw. It was an original film. It came out of no where. And when I pictured myself directing, it was always something doing that. I was asking myself, ‘what is my Saw?’ So when I was asked to do the sequel, I didn’t picture myself doing it. The way I treated it was it was its own separate film. You could watch it, even though you haven’t seen any of the other films.
Geeks of Doom: How do you feel about the importance of practical effects and using it to get the cast more involved in the film?
Leigh Whannell: It’s hugely important. Hugely. Especially in horror films and host films, CG goes against what makes a horror film so scary. It needs to be simple. Any horror film that I have seen that uses CG has not been scary. You guys know which ones I am talking about. What is scary to me is the ending of the Blair Witch Project, where it is somebody standing against the wall, facing the wall, not turning around. The most simple thing in the world. Why does it chill us? Because we could relate to it. As a fan I don’t like the CG, but for the actors I think it is important to look and see the person. I don’t want them to look at a tennis ball. I also think that practical effects are better in all areas of film. It goes beyond just horror for me. I hope the new Star Wars films have practical effects, mixed in with inevitable CG.
Geeks of Doom: What about the future of the franchise, you kind of teased at the end of Insidious: Chapter 2 that there was a new adventure waiting to be unfolded.
Leigh Whannell: It could be explored in the future. I kind of never the liked the idea of the film being about Lin as a ghost. It could’ve gotten a bit silly if it’s just Specs and Tucker going “˜I think she’s here with us.’ And we have her behind us. I like the idea of going back in time, cause I wanted Lin’s character to be alive. And that’s what we did. I think a lot of people go “˜prequel?! But I want to find out what happened at the end of the second film!’ And I really think that desire to find out about the second film goes away, because when you watch the third film it just sucks you into this whole new universe, and you forget about that. And that’s been our experience testing the film.
Insidious: Chapter 3 opens in theaters on June 5, 2015. Watch the trailer here if you haven’t seen it.