The day after my first visit to the set of Insidious Chapter 2, I headed back out to the Linda Vista Hospital to observe another night of shooting. In particular, I followed contest winner Michael Grise through a ghoulish makeover before his appearance with Patrick Wilson in a key scene in the film. I also got to see James Wan in action, handling a frenetic and visually intense scene with aplomb.
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.”
Check out PART ONE of my Insidious Chapter 2 set visit here and head below for PART TWO!!
My second day on the set of Insidious Chapter 2 is quite a bit different than the first. For starters, there’s no group chat – no formal press conference. No other journalists. My arrival time is a bit later and when I arrive everyone is already working.
Well, almost everyone. I arrive at Linda Vista Hospital just minutes after Michael Grise, whose video entry (included below) in an Insidious Chapter 2 fan contest won him a walk-on role in the film. When I get there he and his girlfriend are hanging out near the side entrance chatting with Jason Blum. Blum congratulates Grise on a job well done with his video, which was all shot in one take. After a few more minutes of small talk it’s back to work for the producer, who hops in the Blumhouse van (which is wi-fi equipped) to answer some emails and roll some calls.
From there Grise and I are escorted to the rear of the facility where a team of makeup artists are working on the featured performers who will comprise the tortured inhabitants of ‘The Further’ for this evening’s shoot. The transformation process for these ghouls is more involved than it would be for a regular extra, they’re getting more screen time after all, so the whole affair is pretty elaborate.
Grise, who has never been to Los Angeles (actually he had never even been on a plane until yesterday), is plopped down at the first of six make-up stations where he will undergo a slow and steady transformation into a deceased WW2 Marine. Hair, makeup, wardrobe, blood, latex wounds, that inky black stuff makeup artists love to put on your teeth – he gets it all. In between makeup stations Grise gets up to call his boss at Disneyworld in Florida, explaining why he might not be on time for work the next day (I am later relieved to find out that his employment indeed remained intact).
After makeup, I talk to a newly zombified (or Further-fied, if you prefer) Grise at dinner while we wait for his scenes to shoot. It’s easy to see why he won – his enthusiasm would be hard for anyone to match. How did he find out about the contest? “I follow James Wan on twitter, and 4 days into the contest he posted about it and I had to do it. Because I love ‘Insidious’, I really do.” How long did it take to make the video? “As soon as I heard about the contest I had all of these ideas. A lot of them got changed, but I wanted to incorporate my nephew for sure. And we did it all in one take. And I don’t know how to use effects so there are no effects in the video.”
Since he’s such a huge fan, what’s his favorite element from the first film? “I loved the screenplay, I loved the idea of the house not being haunted. I love the scene where they’re all kind of still in the house, the whole couch scene. The way they did that was really brilliant. That’s hands down my favorite scene. I also like when they went into The Further, I think that was a risk that paid off.”
Grise found out that he won two weeks ago (on his 21st birthday). I try to put myself in his shoes, wondering if it was possible to stop thinking about it at all during that time period. “No. Because that was my birthday weekend, actually. I was just so excited, nervous at times, but mainly excited.” Just by looking at him, you know he’s telling the truth. Rarely have I seen someone so in awe over their current predicament.
I can see that dinner is ending and the crew is gearing up to resume the shoot, so I rattle off a few more questions. What’s his impression of LA in general? “I love it. I really don’t want to go back to Orlando! As soon as I came here, I saw the Hollywood sign. And I’d never seen a mountain before.” Is he going to keep making short films? “Oh yeah. Jason Blum telling me to keep making them helped.” He spent about 2 hours in the makeup chair. How was that? “It was cool. Every time I opened my eyes I look completely different. I had a lot of fun.” And you’ll be shooting until 3AM and you have a 8AM flight? Are you planning on sleeping at all? “I don’t know, I haven’t thought about it yet!”
As dinner wraps up, Ty Simpkins – who plays Dalton Lambert in the film – stops by our table with his family. It turns out they’re all big fans of Grise’s video and just wanted to say hi before we go upstairs. As dinner ends I accompany Grise into the abandoned hospital and up the stairs to a large room that’s doubling as The Further tonight.
As soon as we enter the space, a PA quickly whisks Grise away and assimilates him among the group of stylized spirits inhabiting the room. A giant, heavy flap of black canvas is loosed from its perch overhead to block out the entrance and snuff out any production lights from outside. From there director James Wan guides Patrick Wilson through a few beats of the scene, which involves him being lost in the pitch blackness of The Further with only a hurricane lantern to guide his way.
As soon as Wan is satisfied with the general flow of the scene, he heads over to video village which is behind yet another giant black curtain. Trapped, with no way to escape either room without heavily inconveniencing the crew, I follow Wan behind the curtain reasoning that this way I’m at least less likely to make an accidental appearance in front of the camera. As I leave the wide-open space full of ghouls, several fog machines activate and turn the air from transparent to translucent in a matter of seconds.
I’ve seen Wan work before, on the set of a film whose report is still under embargo, but I remain impressed by his ease and sense of fluidity. He’s forced to raise his voice so he can be heard from behind the curtain as he gives last minute instructions to Wilson, “turn left! Now right! There’s something right in front of you but you can’t see it!” He addresses the DP as well, telling him to whip in certain directions and land on certain reference points.
The footage is dark, even on the monitors it’s hard to tell what’s going on (obviously the intent here). But there’s more than a few moments where Wilson’s lantern illuminates Grise among the spirits in the room, making his movie debut in the sequel to his favorite film. Knowing how these things go, I am fairly certain they will be shooting iterations of this set-up until 3AM hits a few hours later. So, a little after midnight, when someone raises the black curtain to head outside – I quickly follow.
I drive home hoping I haven’t picked up any extra spirits and knowing I’ll be seeing this film, and Grise within it, in the near future.