Insidious 3 Set Visit
By Alyse Wax
Sequels get a bad rap. Not quite as bad as remakes (where the hatred is usually well-deserved) but it seems like people look down on sequels. And of course, the returns diminish as the sequels increase. Insidious seems to be one of the few franchises where the second one held up to the first, and after spending a day on the set of Insidious Chapter 3, I am excited that it looks like the tradition will continue.
Tucked into a dusty town far north of Hollywood, with nary a trendy cafe or boutique in sight, is the small cluster of soundstages that Insidious 3 has made its home. Quite a difference from Insidious 2, which filmed in the infamous (and some say haunted) Linda Vista Hospital. But once inside, we are transported into a new and disturbing vision of The Further.
Chapter 3 is set in 2008, making it a “prequel” to the original Insidious. But the Lambert family does not make an appearance in this film. “I didn’t think there was much left to tell with the Lambert family,” admits writer/director Leigh Whannell (who will also reprise his role of Specs). “I think it would have been weird for the trailer to be like, ‘They’re back. And they’re being haunted. Again.’ If you put Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson in this movie, and a teacup moves, their response is ‘Oh shit, it’s a ghost again.’”
Unit publicist James Ferrera gives us a vague idea of the plot: “The protagonist is a young girl named Quinn who has just lost her mother. She has a brother and a father, and the whole family is feeling the loss. It particularly touches her. She is trying to communicate with her mother, and in doing so, she unwittingly disturbs something in The Further. That is what sets off the events of this film.”
“When we took [the Lamberts] out of the picture, I started thinking about what the connective tissue would be,” Whannell says. “If it is a new family, who would be familiar? And of course, Elise, Tucker and Specs came up. The thing is, James [Wan] and I wrote ourselves into a corner in that Elise dies in the first film! I really wanted Elise back, but I didn’t want to deal with ‘ghost Elise’ – I want her alive! So then I started thinking about an origin story for her, a prequel set before the first film.”
Whannell promises there will be “little strands” that connect Chapter 3 to the first Insidious film, but promises that audiences can walk into Chapter 3 and enjoy it without having seen the first two. “I liked that slate-wiping aspect of it, but I think there is room between this film and the first film [for more stories].”
Getting Whannell to direct Insidious Chapter 3 was not a slam dunk. “We were begging Leigh to direct it, but he just wanted to write the script,” states producer Jason Blum. “There was a two-minute window where I was like, ‘I don’t want to direct part three of anything,’” admits Whannell. “Not even The Godfather made a decent part three. But after that two-minute window passed, I told myself I was an idiot, that I have to do this. This was before I wrote it. Once I started to write it, I fell in love with it. I do remember saying, ‘I don’t know if I want someone else to fuck this up. I want to fuck it up!’”
Into The Further we go. The scene we watch them film today, as they enter the last week of principle photography, involves Lin Shaye, reprising her role of Elise, as she and Quinn (played by Stefanie Scott) race down a long, Gothic hallway as they try to escape the film’s demon. The demon is a horrific vision, even in person: he is skinny and bald and hunched, dressed in a filthy hospital gown and an ominous breathing apparatus. If he looks familiar, there is a good reason for that: “He is played by Michael MacKay, the guy from Seven, who played Sloth,” explains Whannell. “I remember saying to the casting agent, ‘I want him to look like the guy from Seven, who was tied to the bed. Sloth.’ So she got him! He looks exactly the same, but a little older. That guy plays our main villain! It’s awesome to have him, given that that character was such an inspiration for our villain’s look. Imagine if that character, Sloth, got up and was walking around.”
A walk through “Sloth’s” apartment is disgusting, to say the least. We are in the 1970s version of his apartment – I guess when he was a living, (barely) breathing person. The demon in his human life was very ill and a shut-in, as evidenced by mounds of prescription bottles, oxygen tanks, cigarettes, and multiple towers made of playing cards. Of course, there is a creepy doll in the demon’s living room, but what is even weirder are the stacks of photographs spilling out around the decrepit piano: closeup photos of other, equally-creepy dolls. A stack of “Wanted” posters are mixed in, but I cannot get close enough to see who is wanted, and what for. Judging by the police sketch, I have to believe it is a pedophile.
“The lights on the set are low and gloomy,” says Dermot Mulroney, who plays Quinn’s father. “I’m just doing a scene about breakfast, getting the kids off to school – and there is a guy sitting behind me, this demon, in full regalia, ready to go on to do his part. He’s just lurking in the corner.” That wasn’t the only time Whannell scared his cast – and they have William Friedkin to thank for that. “I used an airhorn once,” Whannell confesses. “This all comes from William Friedkin. Before I started shooting, I sent William Friedkin a Tweet, and asked for advice, and he said, ‘Let’s go out to lunch and talk about it.’ So I ended up going out to lunch with William Friedkin. It was surreal! I’ve never met the guy, and he barely says hello before he starts off by saying, ‘You’ve got to scare your actors for real. Every time someone jumps in The Exorcist, it was because I was just off-camera, firing a gun. That’s what you must do.’ I couldn’t do that, so the airhorn was the consolation prize.” Stefanie Scott, who has always wanted to do a horror film and was a fan of the Insidious franchise before signing on, admits that “Leigh scares the crap out of me every day.”
Insidious Chapter 3 is scheduled to hit theaters June 5, 2015.