Insidious’ James Wan on (Haunted) House tours and push visuals, ahem, Further – The AV Club | Episode Movies

James Wan

James Wan
photo: Daniel Boczarski (Getty Images for Warner Bros.)

Halloween is the one holiday that has no shortage of good movie recommendations. Unlike Christmas, there are more than five good options and many variations within the horror genre to suit the viewer’s needs. But if someone needs a seedy film with lots of scares, no gore, and the most frightening use of Tiny Tim since, well, Tiny Tim, don’t accept a substitute for insidious.

James Wan’s film captivates viewers with intelligent direction, believable characters and creature designs that evoke an ancient, unspeakable horror. Wan drags us (sometimes kicking and screaming because his movie is so scary) through his suburban nightmare, uses our own horror movie know-how against us, and comes out of nowhere with the perfect scare.

Especially more so than any of their other franchises Seen, Wan and co-writer Leigh Wannell did not present themselves as extreme horror writers but as horror story connoisseurs. And where better to show off your skills than in the classic horror film, the haunted house? take a break from shooting Aquaman and the Lost KingdomWan spoke to The AV Club about the making of the first two insidious Movies, updated his visual style and how, in order to scare people, they must first understand the space.

The AV Club: What do you remember when you were looking for the two houses? insidious?

James Wan: We wanted it to feel like a very traditional suburban home in a neighborhood that people could relate to. That’s always the best way to put the audience in the shoes of the characters. They’re like, “Oh, that looks like where I live.” You know, as opposed to a big, huge mansion. This was important to find something that was easy to relate to.

AVC: What challenges did you face filming in a relatable house?

JW: Well, I didn’t build the sets. These are all real houses that we shot in, so the reality is shooting on location, shooting in a neighborhood. Just the practicality of where to park your film truck, where to store the catering and equipment. With The incantation Movies, I have a bigger budget. I would set up my interior set on a sound stage so I can really control the looks, lighting and general things that go on during a film shoot.

In the first film, they move into an even smaller house, and that makes it even more difficult. You live in a smaller house and you have all the filmmaking infrastructure that goes with shooting a shot, right? And you don’t really have room for all the gear, for the lights, for the crew at all. Things got a little tight in this second house.

Insidious (2010) Official Trailer #1 – James Wan Movie HD

AVC: One of my favorite parts of your films is the “house tours”. You lead the camera around the room. What effect does that have?

JW: That’s something I do a lot in my films. Whether it’s a haunted house movie or an action movie, I love letting audiences know the world they live in. If you can get the audience to understand the layout of the space, it’s a lot easier to design things that happen because you can do things in shorthand because they have a good understanding of the space.

In the case of a haunted house movie, I do a house tour very early on to show how the rooms flow into each other so there is no confusion later when I create my set pieces.

AVC: There is a lot of mythology and world building in the design of the first two films, especially around The Further which implies a lot more story. Since then, they’ve become synonymous with a range of horror mythologies. Are you testing this to build a larger universe?

JW: A lot of it is really my personal taste, my personal aesthetic. I like the things that are just a little whimsical, just left or right of center. I’m quite a visual person, so I tend to focus on visuals that you’ve either a) never seen before or b) just a little bit elevated.

As I build the world of The Further, this world really gives me the opportunity to create a visual look that can be a little bit grander and push the aesthetic a little bit higher than what it looks like in the real world. The incantation Movies tend to be set in a more grounded world, so I keep the aesthetic of the time period the story takes place in insidious movies, I can have a little more fun dreaming up more whimsical looks.

AVC: How established is that mythology when you’re writing the script?

JW: The most important thing for me and for Leigh [Whannell] is to get the film we’re making right and make it the way we want to make it. But I always have bigger stories in the back of my mind. In the same way, an actor researches his characters to understand where the characters come from, so they know where they are going, [it’s the] me too. If I know what the world is like in my head, I can tell the story better even though I’m photographing a microcosm of that world. Ultimately, that means that if we’re lucky enough to get to the future sequels and spin-offs and all that, I’ve already roughly mapped out the world in my head and I kind of know where we might be going with future stories. So that’s important to me, even if I don’t necessarily address that in the first film.

AVC: Each film consists of three parts. The first jumps from a haunted house movie to an possession movie and finally to this astral projection movie. Insidious: Chapter 2 walks differently, jumps from a glowing reef to it Back to the Future: Part 2 Perspective and also a classic haunted house story. Was there an effort to match the structure of the first film?

JW: We created this world with The Further that allows us to experiment and get a little more fantastical. I really enjoy it. And because we’re doing a little bit more with the fantasy aspect of it, it allows me to play with the monstrous creatures a little with a little bit of time travel, Lucio Fulci-style creatures, zombie designs, but it still takes place in one House instead, so it has the trappings of a classic haunted house story, except that the story itself isn’t traditionally a haunted house. It’s a little more fantasy. It allows us to branch out.

I didn’t want to do the same film as the first film. I thought this was a missed opportunity. We created this world and it would be a shame not to explore this elevated world more and try different things. In order for me to come back to do any sequels, I need to have something new to do or say something different, there’s no reason for me to come back. I will pass it on to other people like I did with this one Seen Franchise.

AVC: There is a rumor going around on the internet that the house in Insidious 2 is the same house as Malignant. Was the same house used in both?

JW: no I’m trying to remember. I’ve shot in many houses over the years. They are from the same era. I think they’re both Victorian designs and so they have a lot of architectural similarities. But they are not the same houses. They’re actually pretty far apart in LA

AVK: Chapter 2 has a very different look than the first film, perhaps because it had a bigger budget. What do you remember about the visual look update from the first film to the second?

JW: The second film doesn’t actually have much more budget than the first.

AVC: It looks more like a summon movie or Malignant with those splashier colors and more elaborate setups.

JW: There were days up Insidious 2 where I’m like, “Oh, I just don’t have enough time to shoot it right.” It still felt like a very low budget film to me. But thanks.

With the films I’ve done, I know the tricks of making things look better and more polished. And I think we definitely have a better camera in there Insidious 2. And that could actually be the reason why Insidious 2 looks smoother.

But in terms of similarities to my last film, something like theatrical, stylized photography and color, I’ve always done that dead silence, my second film. Even in even my first Seen Movie, there were moments when the room was bathed in red and there were strong blues and greens. I think I have a palette that sounds pretty true in all the films I’ve done. Even in Aquaman movies.

Insidious: Chapter 2 Official Trailer #1 (2013) – Patrick Wilson Movie HD

AVC: The first insidious Film just has such a grounded look. It is more modest at the beginning than in Chapter 2, which starts at a higher pitch. What did you learn between the two films to make that jump?

JW: Weirdly, in between those two films, I went up to do them The incantation. We worked very closely with my DP, John Leonetti, during this period of my career. John has since moved on to directing, but he worked with me a lot back when he was DP. We would talk about the things we like. The color scheme I wanted to return to Insidious 2 because The incantation was more of a genuine loving throwback to the 70’s aesthetic, with lots of zoom cameras and somber quality. But after also spending time making a film that “looks more down to earth,” I wanted to go back and have fun with it insidious. And that’s why I think I base it on the opera, theatrical lighting and the color scheme Insidious 2.

I’m reacting to the last film I made. I want to go and do something different for the next one. Whether it’s a different story, a different genre, or just a different way of shooting the film.

AVC: Speaking of the reaction to your last film, there will be malicious 2?

JW: For that I would say malicious 2. If the fans want it, I want them to make big noise with the studio. And this is how you did it. #RestoreTheMalignantUniverse. This must be done for a malicious 2 happen.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

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