James Wan Insidious 2

There really is no better title for the sequel to 2010′s Insidious than Insidious Chapter 2. Like a book filled with intense cliffhangers, the final moment of the first movie begged for more, and in this sequel we get that moment and so much more. This is the story of the Lambert family, including Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne, and it picks up right at the end of the first film. But the sequel also delves into the past, helping to complete the puzzling and frightening story co-created by director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell. (The team that created not only Insidious, but Saw too.)

Back in July, before Wan got to work on Fast and Furious 7, I got to chat with the writer and director of Insidious Chapter 2. We discussed how the sequel goes deeper into this universe’s mythology, the choices made to get there, how footage from the first movie was incorporated, what they knew and didn’t know going into the sequel and much more.

Check it out below but beware. There are minor spoilers and the interview is best read after seeing the movie.

Again, spoilers for the structure and story of Insidious Chapter 2 are discussed at length below. Nothing major or specific is revealed, but if you prefer to go in cold, see the movie and come back to get some answers.

/Film: What I love about the first film is how it was scary, but also set up a unique mythology. Was the aim here to answer all the lingering questions from the first film?

Leigh Whannell: Yeah, I think both of us really wanted to continue the story of the Lambert family. What’s great about this film is that it has all the same cast members from the first movie. A lot of times a sequel will keep the brand, but change the setting. This is really a serious extension of the first film and I think if you stick with those characters you have to answer some questions..

James Wan: Definitely. I think it’s a fine line… What did make the first one scary is some of the mystery, but then you kind of keep not letting people know… You can’t keep holding back answers as the series progresses, right? Then you’re going to end up with something like Lost.

[Laughs]

Whannell: I was going to say, “Tell the producers of Lost that.”

Wan: Right, well, something like Lost where people are so excited, they get to the end and they don’t get the answers that they are looking for and people get so pissed off. So instead of dragging it out with four or five sequels down the track, we said “Let’s do it with this one. Let’s wrap it up and finish the story with the Lambert family.”

Whannell: I remember James saying something to me years ago, even before Saw, it’s actually fairly easy to create mystery. Mystery is easy, because mystery is a question. We could write a movie right now where it’s like the opening scene is a guy, he’s got a bullet wound and he goes “Never open this box. You wouldn’t believe what’s in this box” and the audience would be like “Wow.” But James was like “If it gets to the end of the movie and you either don’t reveal what’s in the box or worse, you reveal what it is and it’s a let down…” It’s like if you spend a whole movie building up what’s in the box, you have to pay it off in a big way. So with Insidious it was like “Okay, shit. We set up this whole mysterious world, how can we pay it off in a way that makes the audience go’“Cool, that’s why he was being chased’ or ‘That’s why this was happening.’” You know?

Viewers know what happened at the end of the first film, but the characters don’t. How do you keep the characters from looking dumb as the audience knows more than they do?

Whannell: It is definitely tough, but the way you get around that is hopefully when the characters start asking questions they dig deeper and they find out additional things that you as an audience did not know about. So I think you can have a bit of leeway with how you thread that.

This is a very layered movie, with time travel and all of these things….

Whannell: Back to the Future…

It is crazy like Back to the Future. (Laughs) Why do that rather than just continuing forward in time?

Wan: We had created this world that gives us freedom to try things that we haven’t tried before. Here’s the thing that I’m always coming up against. With the first Insidious movie people loved the first two thirds and then they’ll kind of go “Oh… yeah…” with the end where it kind of goes in a different direction and becomes this other thing. They weren’t as engaged in it, right? So I went off and made The Conjuring which is all about the first two thirds of that movie and everyone’s like “It’s great, but it’s not as unique. It’s not that different.” I’m like… “I can’t win,” right?

So I give people what they want. I get shit on for this other stuff, so now with Insidious 2 we thought “What makes Insidious unique? We should just embrace it for what it is. We’ve created this other world that we can play with, do things that we can’t do in my other movies.” So one of the first things Leigh and I talked about was we loved the idea that the second movie gets to visit the first movie and that was what kind of got me excited in the first place to want to potentially come back to make number two.

Whannell: Yeah, for sure. The time bending world of “The Further” allows you to twist things in a way that story-wise you can get away with it. It’s like a gift wrapped excuse to do crazy stuff.

Wan: But I think it’s what makes it different. It makes it fit into the universe of the Insidious world. It’s off kilter. It’s quirky. I like the idea that we’ve made a quirky horror movie.

Whannell: Whenever James and I work together it’s kind of polarizing for audiences, because we like to go there. We like to do crazy shit and every film we’ve made together has been kind of insane and it’s polarizing. I’m seeing the reviews for The Conjuring and I’m so happy reading it like “Oh wow, this is amazing” and I realize that James and I have never had that much of a blanket opinion, because it’s kind of polarizing. That’s the best word I can use for it.

Absolutely. Jumping ahead a little bit, just because you mentioned the time travel stuff, did you reshoot those scenes or did you use footage from the first movie?

Wan: It’s a mixture actually. One movie that I reference is the Phantasm series. I love what Don Coscarelli did. I think in one of his sequels he went back and showed a flashback from the first film, but using footage that he did not use in the cut of the first movie and so I love that there were certain things that I kept out in the first movie and then…

Whannell: Like Ed Wood.

[Everyone Laughs]

Whannell: He’s a really big inspiration for James.

Wan: That’s going to be a quote.

Whannell: He’s like Ed Wood.

Did you worry about establishing that there’s no time in The Further? Like you said, it is a world where you can do anything and that’s what you sort of buy, but was there ever a point where you were like “We have to say that this can do that?”

Whannell: We kind of established that in the first film. Lin [Shaye] talks about there being no time…

Wan: No time or space. And I don’t know how many people realize this, but when Patrick Wilson’s character Josh Lambert in the first movie goes in The Further to find his son, he meets a little boy that points out where he’s supposed to go and that little boy is him.

Whannell: Some people miss it, but that’s a great point. We already established this in the first film.

Wan: We established that time has no…

Whannell: It’s not linear in The Further. Your younger self can visit your older self. It’s really sort of crazy. It’s good for people like us. It’s a blanket excuse. If someone says “It doesn’t make sense,” you can be like “Hey man, it’s The Further.”

That’s actually one of the moments in the first movie that was up for debate, like if his younger self is there, does that mean he’s been possessed this whole time? It’s very, very cool. Now obviously there’s always a danger with the second movie to make it much bigger, but because first Insidious was such a small budget, this one was forced to be bigger. Was there ever an idea to go like way, over the top bigger? Or did you know it had to be graduate?

Wan: No, we couldn’t really do that. We knew we needed to keep it in a confine of what we had established in the first film, but open up the mythology a big more. It is a much bigger movie from a production stand point, because Insidious 2 was still shot and made like a very low budget film so it was tough. I have to say Insidious 2 was one of the hardest films I’ve ever had to make in my short time here in Hollywood. It was very difficult in terms of how ambitious the project was, what we wanted to get in there in the short amount of time that we had to make it. You know, the first one was shot in 21 days. This one was like 24 or 25 days and so it wasn’t easy.

Whannell: The first draft I wrote, the very first draft of the script for Insidious 2, I sort of guessed at what James would want to direct and I did make it much bigger. If you remember it was almost like The Cell.

Wan: Fantastic visually.

Whannell: And James read it and I thought that would be what he would respond to, but he’s like “We’ve got to keep it small and intimate like the first film, because we’ve got to keep it within the world of the first film. We can’t go too far into this Cell territory.” I’m glad he said that, because then I would go back and make something that fits better.

You didn’t know at first that you were going to do the second film. Did you know, for example, who was knocking at the door when you wrote the first film? Or did you figure that out in writing this time to leave it that way?

Wan: Of course we knew then. (Laughs)

Whannell: Right, didn’t we talk about that? We were like “This is going to be good for the sequel.”

Wan: We were like “If we are ever fortunate enough to do a sequel, this is what we are going to do.”

Whannell: Exactly.

Besides the obvious last scene, is there anything in the film fans should look at that could inform future sequels? Is there anything in there?

Whannell: I wouldn’t say there’s a scene in this movie that points to anything.

Wan: I will say the expansion on this world that we’ve created. I think if you’re a horror fan you would know that the continuing aspect of potential future films is that we could create a potentially rich horror world, a very rich horror world that we can pull so many stories from.

With Fast Six out in theaters, fans have started ranking them. Now you’re the new guy, directing Fast and Furious 7. Can you rank your favorite Fast and Furious movies?

Whannell: Come on James, you don’t want to upset anybody now.

Mine is Three, Five, Six, One, Two, Four.

Whannell: I loved Fast Five. That to me is a really great one.

James, what’s your favorite one?

Wan: I really like Five and Six.

Okay, all right. Thank you so much guys. It was great to talk with you.

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