Posted on Tuesday, March 24th, 2015 by Germain Lussier
Walking onto the set of Insidious Chapter 3 is almost exactly like walking into the Further. That’s not just because, on day 25 of a 29 day shoot, they’re shooting scenes in the Further. It’s because first-time director Leigh Whannel likes a very quiet set and everything is kept incredibly dark. How dark is it? So dark, PAs walk around the stage with flashlight head attachments. So dark that even the dim monitors around which a small group of journalists huddles in far the corner are putting off too much light. A ceiling to floor curtain is dragged in front of us to just make sure things remain dark.
After writing and co-starring in the first two films, Whannel is doing both those jobs as well as directing Insidious Chapter 3. It’s a prequel to the first two, set three years before the first movie, and is described as an origin story for Elise, Lin Shaye’s character. She’ll be called in to help the Lambert family (Stefanie Scott and Dermot Mulroney) deal with some issues in the Further, the alternate plane of existence that’s home to some of the most terrible creatures imaginable. In Insidious Chapter 3, the main villain is described as “the physical manifestation of cancer” and he was the star of the brief, frightening scene we saw shot. It’s August 12, 2014 at Delfino Stages, about 20 miles outside of Los Angeles and this is our Insidious 3 set visit.
The scene we observed being shot is from near the end of the film. (In the latest trailer, it’s at 2:19 as the title comes up.) According to Whannell, this is when things “start to get hectic” Elise (Shaye) is in The Further moving Quinn (Scott) out of a room and away from a demon. The hallway resembles an old, gothic hotel but really it’s an apartment building. In fact, it’s the Lambert’s apartment building, just in the Further. Which means the aforementioned darkness, punctuated only by dim, almost tealish blue lights and a smoke/fog budget the likes of which you’ve never seen.
What I mean is for every single take, about two minutes is spent flooding the floor of hallway with fog. It rises to about waist height and then begins to settle. Once the Assistant Director thinks it’s hit the right height, Whannell calls “Action.” This happens for every single take we see over the course of the day.
Running From The Devil
After two tech rehearsals with stand-ins, the fog enters along with Shaye and Scott. We’re told this first shot is the POV of the demon and, later, we’ll get alternate angles. In this shot though, the camera chases Elise and Quinn down the hallway with a large orange elevator at the end. An assistant screams “Doors” to get someone to open the doors automatically and then “Doors” to close them. On the first take the automatic doors don’t shut all the way. Take two nails it.
As the crew preps for the next shot, a small group including myself is brought onto the set. The room Elise and Quinn run out of is actually the apartment of the demon, played by Se7en’s Michael Reid MacKay. He was cast because that look and performance was exactly what Whannell thought of when he thought of this character. “I actually said ‘You know the guy ‘Sloth from Se7en, that he tied to the bed and kept him there for a year?’ That’s who we got, the actual guy who was tied to the bed. He’s a couple of years older now, but he’s that guy. And he just is so great in the role.”
However, before we see what Whannell means and what MacKay looks like, we tour his apartment. In the film, the Lambert family live directly below this apartment so it has the same floor plan. This works both for the story and logistically. Earlier in the shoot the set was dressed as their apartment in 2008. It took two days but the crew has now redecorated the entire two bedroom apartment into creepy, serial killer, 1970s garb.