INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2
About the Production
Working individually and collectively, director James Wan, screenwriter Leigh Whannell and producer Jason Blum have been responsible for some of the most influential, commercially successful and flat-out terrifying horror thrillers of the past decade.
In 2004 Wan and Whannell unleashed the groundbreaking and hugely popular Saw, which spawned a blockbuster franchise on which Whannell continued to serve as a writer (Saw II and III) and executive producer. Wan most recently helmed the acclaimed haunted-house tale, The Conjuring, while Blum has shepherded such blood-curdling hits as Paranormal Activity and Sinister to the screen. Together, the trio collaborated on the disturbing and original 2011 psychological horror thriller Insidious, a micro-budgeted that became the profitable theatrical release that year.
Now all three filmmakers are back -- along with the entire cast of Insidious -- with Insidious: Chapter 2, which continues the story of the Lambert family's life-and-death struggle with malignant spirits bent on destroying their lives.
"We're super excited at the chance to continue telling the story we started in the first film," says Wan, who makes his sequel-directing debut. "I love the characters we created in the first film, and it's great to come back to work with the same cast and crew. It's like coming home to a family. But it's also very scary because the success of the first film took us all by surprise."
Insidious centers on the troubles of the Lamberts, a suburban family who leave their haunted house for a new home, only to learn it's not their house that is haunted -- it's their eldest son. Insidious: Chapter 2 rejoins the family as they try to put their recent troubles behind them, but discover that the spirits that have tormented them are far from finished.
Wan and Whannell took the unusual step of calling the film Insidious: Chapter 2 because it picks up right where the first film ends. "Not too many sequels try that, but we loved the idea of creating back-to-back stories," says Whannell. "You could almost watch them as one movie, or as chapters in the same story. We see Josh murder Elise, but Renai doesn't see it and she's not quite sure what's going on. So at the start of the second film, everything seems back to normal, but slowly you realize something is terribly wrong."
Blum says his primary objective as producer was to ensure that the indie spirit Wan and Whannell brought to the first film was not diluted, despite the fact that Insidious: Chapter 2 had a slightly larger budget.
"The first film had a single vision -- James and Leigh's -- pushing it forward without any kind of interference or creative compromises," the producer says. "I believe that's one reason the film did so well, so we didn't want James or Leigh to make any creative compromises with the sequel either."
The filmmaking duo, whose creative partnership goes back to their college days in Melbourne, Australia, say their inspiration has always come from trading ghost stories with one another. Even during the filming process, they constantly bounce around ideas and concepts that they then incorporate into the film.
"If you have enough similarities, or if the same stories excite you, then it's really easy to work together," says Whannell. "James and I are pretty in sync that way, especially when it comes to horror."
Or as Wan puts it: "We've always tried to scare the crap out of each other. And then one day we said, 'We should put this in a movie!' And that's literally what we did for Insidious. We took all the scares, all the great ghost stories we'd heard, and put them in the film."
The film hit a nerve, connecting with audiences domestically and abroad.
"When you deal with themes of the supernatural, I think it's universal," Wan says. "Different cultures have different ways of exploring these themes, but I think they pretty much come from the same place. That's why I think these kinds of movies play really well internationally; people all around the world get them."
Whannell concurs: "Countries that have a lot of folklore tend to have a really strong tradition of bogeymen and ghost stories. When James and I were living in Melbourne, he would tell me a lot of Malaysian and Chinese ghost stories that came from his side of the family. People have been telling these sorts of stories for thousands of years. They have a long history of it."
In addition to picking up the tale of the Lambert family where the original left off, Insidious: Chapter 2 explores a larger mythology and backstory for the characters, says Wan. "It's really a bigger movie," he says. "When we were making the first film, we had plans and ideas for a follow-up, but we didn't push it all the way. We thought, 'We'll see. We'll play with it and see how it goes. There may be a potential second storyline.' And sure enough, when the first film did well, we could actually go back and pull out that second storyline and continue it."
Insidious revolves around young Dalton Lambert, who has the ability to travel out of his physical body -- a gift he inherits from his father, Josh. As a result of this ability, he is haunted by the spirit of a mysterious old woman and a red-faced demon who seek to possess his physical body. It's also revealed that, as a boy, Josh was terrified by an old woman who would visit him at night. But his memories of that event were intentionally suppressed. Insidious: Chapter 2 opens up the possibility that Josh was never actually healed -- and that the old woman never left.
"We're big fans of the metaphysical world and we thought it would be really cool to use astral projection in a film," Wan says. "It's a cool concept -- the idea that, when you're asleep at night, the soul or spirit leaves your physical body and goes floating off. We wanted to do a haunted-house film, but we also wanted to do something that was a bit different. So we melded the two together."
"It's a perfect conceit for a horror film," adds Whannell. "We kept saying, 'Why hasn't anyone used astral projection?' That's something that really gets us excited -- an idea or concept that we feel has not been used before -- and we hadn't seen astral projection in any other film."
Wan and Whannell also folded in another, more familiar concept -- albeit one seldom seen in the horror genre: time travel. The film ventures 25 years into the past to reveal the sinister events at the root of the evil that is haunting the Lamberts, tying up the unresolved mysteries of the first film and delving deeper inside the dark netherworld known as The Further.
"Because the first film was such a stylized and fantastical world, the time traveling aspect actually fit perfectly into the second film," Wan says.
The filmmakers used the concept in an original way to bridge both films so that they could be viewed as two parts of a whole. In one instance, they show the back-story of coma-ward patient Parker Crane -- a newly introduced character. But instead of using the traditional flashback method, the filmmakers reveal Crane's troubled past via a journey back through time within The Further -- a void-like area beyond time and space.
"I said to Leigh, 'Wouldn't it be great if Chapter 2 actually visits the first film in some way? How awesome would that be?" Wan recalls. "So we started thinking how we could show elements of the first movie where you're not quite sure what happened, and then in Chapter 2 you see them again but from a different perspective. We love stuff like that."
Whannell was equally excited by introducing the characters' ability to visit past events that took place in Insidious. "That's probably my favorite part of the sequel -- the elements of time travel where the second film visits the first film. We also liked the idea that the first film focuses on an external ghost that's haunting the family, but in the second film the ghost is internal. It's one of the family members. In the first film, Dalton's being threatened by outside forces, but the second film tells the story of what happens when the ghosts get in, if you aren't successful in stopping them."
The filmmaking duo sees Insidious: Chapter 2 as more of a psychological thriller than a horror film. While Insidious was infused with haunted-house-film archetypes, Wan says Chapter 2 focuses less on gore and CGI effects than on tapping into audiences' most basic childhood fears.
"I would describe it as a domestic thriller with a supernatural edge to it," Wan says. "The ghouls are coming back, but this film isn't about that as much. I feel like I've already established the characters, so now I can get into them without being too gimmicky, while still keeping those elements that people love. The first one was a lot more straightforward, which is great for a first movie, but in a sequel you want to expand on the mythology. You want to show people more of the world you've created, and that's what we did with Chapter 2."
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