INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2
Creating a House Where Spirits Feel at Home
For the design of Insidious: Chapter 2, Wan once again teamed with Jennifer Spence (Paranormal Activity 2, 3 & 4), who was elevated to production designer on the film, having worked as art director on Insidious under production designer Aaron Sims.
"On the first film, Aaron gave me carte blanche on the design of most of the homes that were featured," Spence says. "James wanted the Lambert's home to feel like an average house, but with a twist -- a little bit darker and with a bigger sense of depth."
In choosing the dÃ©cor for the various homes and rooms in the film's locations, Spence says she spent a lot of time combing the Long Beach antique market for original, unique items -- personal things such as old teddy bears or an 1800s reclining wheelchair. "I preferred this to going to prop houses where the objects have been used a thousand times before," she says.
After the events of the first film, the Lambert family moves into the home of Josh's mother, Lorraine. For that house, the filmmakers found a grand old Victorian in the Highland Park neighborhood in Northeast Los Angeles, though they made a point of not playing up the California setting too much.
"What drew me to the house was the wallpaper and the red doors," Spence recalls. "That was really prominent. One of James's favorite colors is red and he tries to use it whenever it works."
The color red is also prominently featured on the mysterious red door that leads in and out of The Further. It stands out among the film's color palette of earthy greens, blacks and softer reds, and contributes to the overall look of the house.
"I wanted the house to have a lot of antiques," Spence says. "I wanted it to feel like a lot of the pieces came with it, but to also feel homey. In 1986 it's a little more sparse, but when we get into the now, it's much busier. It's the place where it all began for Josh."
The Further, by contrast, is sparse and characterized by the color blue.
"It's devoid of all your personal stuff or connections," Spence explains. "We strip all that out. Sometimes rooms are completely empty, with just the bare bones remaining. We fill it with low light and thick fog. We strip it of all detail."
Given Wan's penchant for gadgetry in Saw, it should come as no surprise that props play an important role in Insidious: Chapter 2. Prop master Thom Spence, who art-directed Insidious with his wife Jennifer, had a field day both bringing back some of the iconic gadgets he used for the first film and creating some entirely new ones.
"Originality was paramount, and trying to keep it playful," he says, citing discussions with Wan. "It was more or less MacGyver meets Frankenstein."
Forced by budgetary limitations to be creative, Insidious made common objects iconic -- among them, the old Coleman camping lantern that Josh carries to light his way through The Further, and a gas mask used by Elise. Add to these the ghost-hunting accessories used by Specs and Tucker, such as their tri-field meter for picking up supernatural activity and a customized View-Master toy infused with different colored filters for ultra-violet and infrared ghost detection.
Perhaps most notable among the new props joining the iconography in Insidious: Chapter 2 is youngest daughter Cali's baby-walker.
"This is a baby-walker that becomes possessed and comes alive," says Spence. "We had to make it remote-controllable so we could move it around and control all the lights and bells and whistles that go off on it. We had super fun working on it."
Other key props are the supernatural dice used by the character of Carl Stanaway. Spence says he made them out of custom-cut blocks of plastic. "We carved out the symbols or letters, then threw fissures and imperfections into the dice to make them look more authentic and aged," he says. "They're kind of his runes. As he throws them, they spell out a message that's coming from the other side."
And then there's the tin-can telephone that is repurposed in the film as a portal for young Dalton Lambert to access the netherworld. "It's such an iconic thing from one's own childhood that to see it revived in this way is exciting," Spence observes.
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