A few months back myself and some fellow journalists headed out to the Linda Vista Hospital to visit the set of Insidious Chapter 2, and we got quite the update from the film’s cast and crew. It’s also worth noting that I’ve visited Linda Vista on several occasions and this is the first time I actually heard something about the place that truly frightened me.
In theaters September 13, “The famed horror team of director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell reunite with the original cast of Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Lin Shaye, Barbara Hershey and Ty Simpkins in INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2, a terrifying sequel to the acclaimed horror film, which follows the haunted Lambert family as they seek to uncover the mysterious childhood secret that has left them dangerously connected to the spirit world.”
We actually nabbed a fair amount of the principles of this one with Wilson, Byrne, Shaye, Hershey, Whannell, Wan and producer Jason Blum on hand to guide us through the process.
I’ve been to Linda Vista, the abandoned, supposedly haunted hospital near downtown LA countless times. But never before has the actual concept of “haunting” hung so heavily over the place for me. The idea that there are things here, spirits, that are lost and looking for some kind of way out – this is a possibility that’s always been in the back of my mind, never fully taking center stage.
Whenever I’m here, which is often at night, I’m more concerned about transients. The people who sneak in here to sleep, the people security might have missed in their sweep. I’m worried about the folks who come here to sacrifice chickens (this actually happens) and get high. There’s a pond across the street where bodies are dumped in the night. As jittery as this stuff gets me, it’s never enough to keep me from roaming the halls every now and then, and I’m beginning to suspect I just enjoy frightening myself a little bit.
And then, with one short story from screenwriter/actor Leigh Whannell, my entire perspective changes.
He’s talking about doing research for the first Insidious, and the anecdote sticks with me all night. “I’ve been here twice, after midnight with ghost hunters. We found these guys on the internet. We went to dinner with them and then they brought us here to Linda Vista, which I didn’t know existed. The one security guard lets us in. We walk into this ostensibly abandoned hospital where all the equipment and files have been left as they were on the day it closed down. [Later on] I came here with my wife and we sat in the surgical room, which is supposedly the most haunted room according to these guys. So we sit in the dark for an hour going, ‘is anyone there?’ And lo and behold, no one says ‘yes.’ We leave and my wife said, ‘that was such a bummer, I wanted to see a ghost.’ She said she was sitting there so excited to see a ghost and kept said ‘if there’s a ghost in here show yourself. Possess me, do whatever you have to do.’”
He continues, “A few months later her friend buys her a voucher to go see this psychic. And he basically asked her, ‘have you been to this place recently?’ And she said, ‘we kind of went on this ghost hunt.’ And the guy was like, ‘you can never go there again. You came this close to taking something home with you.’ He asked her if she had seen any blue lights, and she said that she had remembered looking up and seeing these little blue pin lights – she thought it was when you can’t see anything and see all these shapes and colors [instead]. And he said, ‘that was your aunt and your stepbrother holding them back [the spirits].’”
Now, like I mentioned earlier, I’m not normally one for ghosts. And I’m even less inclined to believe a psychic. But, assuming Whannell is relaying the information accurately, there’s something about this particular story that haunts me all night. Whenever I’m here I’m also usually wishing to see a ghost, but that ends almost immediately. Even when I get home later that evening, I wonder if, in my past at the hospital, I had perhaps been too inviting of the supernatural.
But that’s not the only thing I’m not used to experiencing at Linda Vista. For the first time ever, I’m seeing actual sets being built here inside the building. Not just re-dressing the place to look like an active medical center (which is happening as well), but entire constructions of domestic settings.
Director James Wan comments on the usage of the place. “I’ve never shot in Linda Vista either. It’s kind of funny because Leigh and I have always heard so much about it. For research on the first one [Leigh] came here to do a bit of ghost-hunting. And I think a lot of that inspired us when we needed a hospital set, ‘let’s go to Linda Vista and use it for what it is instead of trying to turn Linda Vista into something else.’ But since we’re here we’ve been shooting other stuff in here as well and yes, one of the things we’re building here is one of the set pieces from the first movie.”
And indeed, there it is – a perfect recreation of the living room from the second house the Lambert family moves into at the end of the first film. The room where Patrick Wilson isn’t quite himself and Elise [Lin Shaye] bites the dust. Not only is the room back, but Shaye is back as well. The actress still has an integral part in the sequel, “I’m curious about what happened to Elise in the further. I do have a thought about what might have happened but I haven’t talked to James about it yet. But it’s very freeing. There are no rules to be set up, so it’s up to us to define them. ”
In fact, one of the only rules they have to follow at the moment is continuity. Patrick Wilson, Barbara Hershey and Rose Byrne are also all here – most of them wearing the same clothes we last saw them in during the final moments of Wan’s 2010 surprise hit. I actually don’t notice any of this until Whannell comments on the ensemble, “It’s surreal to see everyone. This is a sequel that brings back everyone from the first film. So it just feels surreal. And they’re also wearing the same clothes they wore in the 1st film. So they’re stuck in ‘The Further.’”
As my fellow journalists and I walk down the hallway, we notice there’s a section of the hospital that looks remarkably clean, just past a doorway that has been re-molded and cheated to look like an elevator. Apparently this is where the character of House Of The Devil’s Jocelin Donahue, (who plays a younger version of Hershey’s Lorraine Lambert) works in the film. Unfortunately Donahue isn’t here today, but we’re led to an equally impressive sight next. All the files that have been littering the halls of Linda Vista for decades? The Insidious Chapter 2 production has wrangled them up and actually filed them. We enter a claustrophobic makeshift records room stacked to the roof with authentic paperwork.
While it’s impossible to guess the actual horror that lives in these files, it doesn’t take much imagination to envision what it would be like to sort through this sh*t at night. We’re tucked into a room with a few monitors as we watch a scene being filmed with Steve Coulter (who plays a new character, Carl) and Hershey in the film’s present day timeline. Together they make their way through a dark, abandoned space lit only by flashlight. Coulter ventures a question, “Why was he here?” Hershey sighs, “he attempted to castrate himself.”
Even having seen the original film, I’m not sure exactly what they’re talking about. And, according to Shaye, that’s the point. “It’s a bit of a murder mystery as well. Which is a wonderful addition to the story. In addition to being supernatural it’s trying to solve this crime.”
After we see finish our tour of the hospital, we sit down for an extended chat with the cast and crew. The main question on everyone’s mind seems to be how this film will balance ‘The Further’ (the nether world introduced in the second half of Insidious) with the realistic tone so many people appreciated in the original’s first half. According to Whannell, it’s a balancing act they’re well aware of and they’re sticking to their guns. “James and I noticed that the first film was kind of polarizing. [People say], ‘the film was great up until [they get to The Further].’ But that’s what we always wanted to do. We wanted to throw in everything but the kitchen sink and have these crazy moments. We couldn’t have made the first half of that film the whole movie, we liked the fact that it descended into chaos. What’s interesting about the sequel is that now everyone knows that about the first movie.”
So how much of the film is set in that dimension? “It’s hard to say without ruining it. But I would say it spends a little more time. At the end [of the first one] we just follow Patrick’s character in there. I’d say this film starts from a point where we have more knowledge of this place. I feel like everyone’s living in this world and trying to take it seriously. So hopefully this second film, even though it includes these ideas like The Further, we’re trying to keep it firmly based in reality.”
How are they launching into it? What’s the timeframe? Obviously the fact that everyone’s wearing the same clothes is a pretty huge hint. Whannell takes the lead again, “It’s a continuation of the first film. It’s not like a lot of sequels that pick up a few years later. This film pretty much picks up from where the other one left off. It’s pretty much the second half of the first film, which I think makes it different.”
Wan later adds that this is the impetus for the film’s non-traditional title, “We wanted to call ‘Chapter 2′ because of that. We love the idea that it’s kind of like a book. And there are parts of this second movie that visit the first movie.” He also stresses that despite a rather apparent increase in budget, “It’s definitely made with the first indie spirit as the first film.” Producer Jason Blum is quick to add that the cost isn’t that much higher, asserting his firm belief that the more expensive films get, the less artistic control the filmmakers are able to exercise over them.
But does the increased budget mean that we’ll get some more of that high/low-tech gadgetry Specs and Tucker [Angus Sampson] were so fond of in the original? Whannell responds democratically “I mean yeah we see a little bit of that. A little of that stuff goes a long way. What’s interesting about the film is that it’s a way to examine the first one, you look at what really worked and what didn’t work.” Wilson adds, “You already had the moment with this crazy gas mask. You can’t do that again. You’ve already done the crazy seance. And because we’re continuing on, it’s not a new family that’s discovering all of this stuff, this is the same story. So we have to look at what we did earlier and what happened this week, or however many days it’s been.”