INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2
Finding the House on the Hill: Locations
Filmed entirely in practical locations in Los Angeles, the 26-day shoot on Insidious: Chapter 2 began in January 2013 at the historic Smith Estate, perched on a hilltop in the Highland Park neighborhood in Northeast Los Angeles. This well-preserved Queen Anne-Victorian house serves as the home of Lorraine Lambert -- and a temporary refuge for her son Josh and his family after the events at the conclusion of Insidious.
Built in 1887, the two-story home is listed in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and was also declared a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument. Originally the home of a judge who wrote books on occultism, it featured as a shooting location in Jack Hill's 1968 black comedy horror film Spider Baby, or The Maddest Story Ever Told, starring Lon Chaney, and the 1979 horror-thriller The Silent Scream.
"This was an amazing location," Wan says. "It's really cool because the house is situated on the top of a mountain and the surrounding neighborhood houses are literally underneath it, so it is an amazing vantage point for views around Los Angeles."
According to Rose Byrne, the locations helped her performance because of their authenticity. "These places they find are very eerie and weird, and dark and low-ceilinged, and that for me is very scary," she says "I just think, 'How could you live in this house?' It's just my sensibility; I'm just way too sensitive for it. Even more than the ghosts and all those sequences, it's the houses that get me."
Another old Highland Park house served for a week as the quirky home of Elise Rainier. Most of the action in those scenes took place in the living room and basement of the 1908 two-story Craftsman. The large basement was divided in two, serving both as the basement of Lorraine Lambert's home and as Elise's reading room, where Specs and Tucker discover the old tape of Elise hypnotizing Young Josh.
A third house -- this one a 1910 Craftsman-style mansion in the historic Adams-Normandie district in mid-city Los Angeles, serves as the home of the Parker Crane character. The uninhabited home, a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument known as the Beckett Residence, has been featured in many films, television shows and music videos over the years, including Rob Zombie's Halloween. It also serves as a popular Halloween haunted house.
But the huge, run-down mansion was a major challenge for the art department team to dress, says Jennifer Spence. "Parker is a tortured soul," she says. "His mother wanted him to be a little girl instead of boy. She's forced him to do evil things. I wanted to make it feel like the house has taken him to a dark place where he's done horrible things that he's hidden away."
The film's final location was Linda Vista Community Hospital in the Boyle Heights neighborhood east of downtown Los Angeles. Originally opened in the 1920s, the hospital has served as a location for countless films, TV shows and music videos since it closed its doors in 1991. Notable films shot there include Pearl Harbor, End of Days, Outbreak, LA Confidential and Conspiracy Theory. Today, the property is slated to be turned into low-income senior housing, making Insidious: Chapter 2 among the last movies to be filmed there.
In the film, the location serves as Our Lady of Angels Hospital -- the place where, in 1986, young Lorraine Lambert works as a nurse and, with her son, has a memorable encounter with Parker Crane. Filming took place on two floors -- one for the flashback scenes, the other set in the present. The hospital was large enough for the crew to do other builds as well -- including a police station, Lorraine's dining room, Cali's bedroom and The Further.
The hospital is rumored to be haunted in real life, too. During shooting, Wan recalls the crew was moving equipment between floors and one of the grips had a spooky experience while he was standing alone.
"He said he felt a little hand come up and grab and hold his hand," the director says. "Then he looked down, because thought maybe a bug or something had landed on his hand, but there was nothing there."
To prepare for their roles as the ghost-hunting duo Specs and Tucker, actors Whannell and Sampson also toured the facility and even took part in a nighttime ghost-hunting trip there with a group of amateur ghost hunters.
"The mental games you can play with yourself in a place like that are scary," Sampson says. "We went down into the basement, past the incinerator, and I found myself sitting in the morgue in the corner wondering, 'What's the worst thing that could happen to me now?' It's probably why that location resonates with so many people."
On another occasion, Whannell returned to the hospital for a ghost-hunting tour with his wife. He says nothing dramatic happened during either of the visits, which involved a lot of sitting around in dark places and asking for spirits to show themselves. However, he says his wife subsequently saw a psychic who asked her if she had recently visited a place with white, arched ceilings.
"She said, 'Maybe this hospital?' and the psychic said, 'Yeah, that's the place. You can never go back there. You came this close to taking something home with you,'" Whannell recalls. "When I told James that story, the first thing he said was, 'God, that's going to make a great scene.' Immediately anytime anyone tells us a ghost story, we start trying to work it into a film or figure out how it could be a cool scene."
For Wan, such experiences are the stuff of inspiration. "There are too many stories like this to just blow it off," he says. "I think that's part of the reason people find our films as effective as they do -- because they come from a real place to begin with."
Wan says he was surprised at the challenges making a worthy follow-up to Insidious presented, but it will be worth it if fans of the original respond positively. "Sequels are usually very hard to do right. I hope the people that loved the first one come back and watch the second one and can see the love that went into making it -- that we didn't just haphazardly throw it together -- because we put a lot of thought into it. We just hope they really enjoy it."
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