This past weekend at Wondercon in Anaheim Ca., as a representative from Nuke the Fridge, I (Chris Salce) took part in some roundtable interviews with the cast of the upcoming supernatural horror film, Insidious: Chapter 3. The cast included Leigh Whannell, Lin Shaye, Stefanie Scott, Dermot Mulroney, Angus Sampson, Hayley Kiyoko and producer Jason Blum. This particular roundtable included Lin Shaye, who plays Elise and the other was Leigh Whannell, who not only plays Specs in the film but also directs it as well. The two talked about Leigh Whannell stepping up to direct and what else can be told from another Insidious film.
Q: How was it like taking the baton from James [Wan]?
Leigh Whannell: Uh…scary.
Lin Shaye: He’s got his own baton.
Leigh Whannell: (Laughs) Yeah, it was a heavy baton. Now we are getting into metaphors (laughs). It was hard. I mean, I really consider James the best modern horror director of the school of horror directors that are working right now, over this past decade. I really feel that he’s the most skilled. I saw ‘The Conjuring,’ just as a fan. I didn’t read the script for ‘The Conjuring,’ I didn’t have anything to do with that film, so I loved just watching a James Wan film in the theatre and it was so well done, that it was terrifying to direct ‘Insidious’ 3. I was like ‘man, people are going to inevitably compare it to what James has done. Not just the Insidious films but ‘The Conjuring’ too ’cause that film was so good. I kind of just took the approach of just shut your eyes and dive off. Don’t look over and be like ‘Wow! I’m forty stories up.’ It’s like if you’re bungee jumping, you just got to like jump. (Laughs)
Lin Shaye: It’s like at the beginning, we kept saying ‘is that scary? Is it going to be scary enough?’ And finally I watched it sort of a subside during the course of the shooting and I finally realized that those places would find themselves, it was really just telling the story. We are still telling their stories, telling truthfully and we worked as a team. The cinematographer and sound guys made sure the scares were going to be there and they are, they totally are. So he had nothing to fear but fear itself.
Q: Was there ever a moment where you were reading the script and like ‘I don’t know if we could do this. This is too scary’?
Lin Shaye: It’s always too scary (laughs).
Leigh Whannell: ‘Cause you really go there.
Lin Shaye: I do really go there on some level. I feel like it’s less personal and more cosmic, that sounds weird to say. I personalize it to a point where it becomes bigger than me and when I’m there, it’s slightly like an outer body experience, which is one of things I love about acting. It’s like you’re in the middle of something that someone else has created, that you’ve you jumped into, that now you’re creating, and now someone else is going to be receiving. It gives me goose pimples to say it. It’s a fabulous experience. I have such honor and regard for the talent of the writer and the director and everyone around me. It’s a total team sport and especially this guy [Leigh] who I really do trust, and he told me that I’m embarrassing him but I don’t care but it’s a trust issue too. I trust him. If he thought it was okay, then it was going to all be good.
Q: How do you guys feel that this one stands out from the rest of the horror genre?
Leigh Whannell: In the horror genre? Wow, that’s a big question. For me, I really try to think about the themes of the film before I started writing and I remember sitting down and thinking, ‘what is supernatural horror really about?’ That particular sub-genre of horror. And I came to the conclusion that they’re all about death, proof of life after death. It’s such a weird thing to talk about, it sounds morbid but we are all going to die. Everyone at this table is going to die, hopefully not next week (laughs) but we all ignore it. You have to go through your life just ignoring this thing in your peripheral vision like ‘Hi, I’m your death.’ And I really obsess about it, not in a morbid way. I obsess about death like I really want to know if there’s life after death. And I think that a lot of the planet is so sure that there is. Religion has given a lot of people security to think like ‘Of course! I’m one hundred percent sure I’m getting there.’ And I’m not like that. It’s not that I don’t believe in God. I’m Agnostic, not Atheist but I don’t know. Until I see a ghost, I’m not so sure there’s life after death. That question drives me crazy, I want to know. This film is really about that. Everyone in the film has lost somebody and they are trying to communicate with them, someone who is dead. Lin is actually someone who can actually do that. She’s the person who you can go see. I’ve had family of mine go and see a medium. A friend of mine, her mother had died, she went to see a medium and the medium was talking to her mother and my friend was balling. It’s a powerful thing. I wanted to tap into that.
Q: This is the third time we are seeing Specs, Tucker and Elise, what is the most important thing that we need to learn about these characters the third time around?
Lin Shaye: Well, in this particular installment, you see me meet Specs and Tucker for the first time and what it is that we offer each other as friends and as business partners ultimately. I think there is a ton of stuff that we can find out about Specs and Tucker. They represent to me, the character…there’s a real depth and richness of who they are and there’s little tiny kernels of it in this one. There’s a moment in particular where I see Specs as such a doofus but I need him, and same with Tucker.
Leigh Whannell: We are like amateur ghost hunters. We just have a blog. And then we meet the real thing.
Lin Shaye: And I need them in this case. I say ‘let them stay’ cause I need them. I know we need all the help that we can get. And here I am, stuck with these too jerks (laughs). We end up doing good together and getting it together. I think if there is more to come, there are rich opportunities to who we are for each other, what we give to each other and what we take from each other. It’s just the beginning. There’s more to come.
Leigh Whannell: Yeah.
Q: Between the James [Wan] pictures and yours, what is the difference in the vision?
Leigh Whannell: That’s an interesting question because when you’re making a sequel, you obviously have to keep it tied together with the other films. The chain around your ankle is that you’re not inventing a new world. You are sort of honoring these films but what I tried to do is have the film reference the other movies, be part of that universe but tell it visually in my own way. I think that James is such a visual stylist. He’s quite flamboyant. I feel like the second Insidious film was James getting his Dario Argento on. Where as I feel like my visual style is a little more grounded. Like if he was using Mario Bava and Dario Argento as visual references, I would use David Fincher and William Friedkin. A much more almost darkier drama. Those muted colors that you would see in Fincher’s films, that’s more my style. The short answer to your question is, that if I could bring anything to it, I wanted to bring a tangible realism that felt more like what Friedkin would do and what Mario Bava would do. And unfortunately, most of these people in this room have firsthand experience with cancer somehow and I wanted the bad guy in this film to be the physical embodiment of cancer. When I talked to the special effects makeup artist, I actually said to him, ‘If cancer was a person, what would he look like?’ He drew this sick thing with a breathing mask and I was like ‘yeah.’
So can we see a Specs, Tucker and Elise spinoff film? It’s always possible!
Insidious: Chapter 3 will come to theaters June 5. The film stars Stefanie Scott, Dermot Mulroney, Leigh Whannell (also director), Angus Sampson, Lin Shaye, Hayley Kiyoko, Tate Berney, Steve Coulter and Michael Reid Mackay.