Exclusive: James Wan and Leigh Whannell Talk Insidious - Dread Central
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Exclusive: James Wan and Leigh Whannell Talk Insidious

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In 2004 two young Australian filmmakers wowed audiences everywhere with their indie hit Saw. Though their low-budget film was an unexpected and huge box office success (which spawned many sequels), director and writer duo James Wan and Leigh Whannell had no idea the triumph of Saw would lead them down the path of being labeled as “the godfathers of torture porn.”

Since then the filmmakers have tried to make their definitive film together while living under the shadow of the dreaded “torture porn” curse, and although Dead Silence and Death Sentence were praised by horror fans for their astonishing set designs and elaborate and impressive camera work, sadly both films were panned by most mainstream critics, leading some to believe James and Leigh had pulled an “M. Night Shyamalan” with their original jaw-dropping (or jaw-trapping) hit.

Fortunately, after six years with life and film experience under their belts, Wan and Whannell chose to premiere their latest collaboration, Insidious (review here), to a fervent Toronto International Film Festival’s Midnight Madness crowd, and the screening went off without a hitch!

After their victorious comeback, Dread Central had the opportunity to talk to both filmmakers about their new film. Upon meeting James Wan for the first time, I was astonished at how friendly, humble and energetic he was despite how exhausted he must have been from the previous night’s screening. Beaming from the news of Sony buying Insidious a mere four hours after the screening, he fed his much needed caffeine fix with a swig of Coca-Cola and then proceeded to tell us about his level of excitement.

BE WARNED: MILD SPOILERS AHEAD!

Exclusive: James Wan and Leigh Whannell talk Insidious

I’m very excited and very happy about it,” he explained. “I was up until 6 in the morning talking to my producers back in L.A. I’m exhausted right now.

Considering Insidious was such a departure from his previous films, Wan also took the time to explain how anxious he was about the screening.

I was so nervous leading up to the screening because of these rabid hardcore genre fans,” he admitted. “They really love the genre, but they’re still desensitized to it as well. It’s not like a wacky horror comedy which seems to do much better [at the box office]. We set out to make a realistic and more grounded horror film, but at the same time paying homage to the horror films that we grew up loving as well,” he added.

Viewers should know that unlike Wan’s other films, Insidious surprisingly lacks any blood and gore. Although I commented on a bloody handprint shown on a character’s bedsheets onscreen, Wan was quick to point out what the stained handprint really was: “Let me clarify that the handprint on the bed actually wasn’t blood. It was lipstick! The main villain in the movie is known as ‘the lipstick-faced demon.’ I don’t think many people caught that, but I didn’t really want a character to point out and say ‘Look, it’s lipstick on his bed!’” he joked.

Wan also explained how it was his true intention to prove to audiences that he could do more than terrorize the audience with blood, guts and sawed off feet.

Hell, yes, it was my intention! It is extremely ironic that I am known as the ‘granddaddy of torture porn’ even though the first Saw film really didn’t have much blood or guts in it and it was really a psychological thriller shot like a horror film. It was really the sequels afterwards that cemented that subgenre, and because mine was the first one, I got actively thrown back into it. Leigh Whannell and I started talking, and we were like, ‘Well, we love our blood and guts, but scary movies should not just be about this! Scary movies should be about SCARING you regardless if it’s a guy with a knife or if it’s that chair moving on its own over there,’” he added. “That would be freaky on its own, and that’s what we wanted to do with Insidious.

“I really wanted to punctuate a creepy atmosphere. I described this film as a ‘supernatural chiller.’”

Like Wan’s previous efforts, Insidious was also shot in a very short amount of time. The filmmakers admitted on stage at the premiere that it only took 22 days to shoot the film.

It was insane. I filmed Saw in 18 days and that was tough. For it to do what it did, I was shocked,” explained Wan. “People don’t realize if you make a movie [like Insidious] that’s more slow-bruting and slow-burning that it’s not easier to do. You’re holding on longer shots that need to be more perfect. You could scrutinize everything if something is not right and if your timing’s off, you’re screwed. Shooting a movie like Saw, you can cut around things easily, but making a film like The Others and Sixth Sense actually cost a lot of money to make. It’s the controlled films that are the hardest to pull off. I’m very thankful to a great cast and crew for helping pull it off,” he exclaimed.

What makes Insidious even more impressive than its shooting schedule is the film’s impressive cast. Up and comers Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne star in the film as well as great character actors Lin Shaye and Barbara Hershey (an actress who is no stranger to the supernatural).

When I pick actors that I work with, I picked them because I either hear they’re awesome people to work with and great actors. Barbara Hershey, Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson all came highly recommended. Patrick and Rose were the two people I wanted immediately,” Wan admitted. “I got my two top choices and that never happens! I have to give a special shout-out to Lin Shaye. Lin was amazing, and she was like my Zelda Rubenstein in this film. (laughs) I also have to talk about Ty Simpkins. I felt so bad for him. He was terrified of the demon character in the film. He shared a lot of scenes with the demon. The actor who played the demon, Joe Bishara, who happens to be the composer for the film as well, is the nicest guy; but when he got into make-up with the hooves and the eyes, Ty began crying a lot. He was so scared. When you see him crying in the movie, those are real tears. He’s adorable and I love him,” he exclaimed.

Despite the word of mouth from critics out there branding this film with a future PG-13 rating because of the lack of gore and cursing, James spoke up that the rumors may not be true.

I don’t think the classification board likes me very much. I don’t know at this point. I heard that the board had said the film was really scary and effective, and when movies are outright scary and effective, that usually gets you an R rating,” he pointed out.

Exclusive: James Wan and Leigh Whannell talk Insidious

One of the biggest questions horror fans have been wondering about is the duo’s disappearing act since Death Sentence and why it took so long for them to collaborate again. James had no problem answering what seemed to be such a sensitive question.

After Saw we were the toast of the town, and then we did the ‘classy’ thing of doing a studio movie [Dead Silence], which was really tough on me. Halfway through production my producer [Gregg Hoffman] passed away. It was a really trying experience, and then came Death Sentence, which I think is my most accomplished work as a director, but no one saw that film,” he joked. “After filming three films back-to-back, I took 2 to 3 years off. Saw had afforded me the ability to take the time off, and in that time Leigh and I cooked up Insidious. I was glad to come back with a movie like this as opposed to jumping into a movie where I had no creative control,” He admitted.

Before ending the interview, James also hinted to DC about his future directorial projects.

I have a bunch of projects that I’m cooking away right now. It’s kind of hard to talk about them, but only because they’re still stewing, so I don’t know which one is going to be the next one,” he said coyly.

After our talk with James, writer/actor Leigh Whannell came into the room full of energy, and after discussing at great length why nobody should make the mistake of eating nachos at five in the morning, (something he was suffering from), we discussed the script of Insidious and how it can to be.

It actually wasn’t deliberate that there wasn’t any gore in the film,” Whannell confessed. “My only template for when I was writing the script was to make the kind of horror film that I would want to see.

James and I always wanted to do a movie dealing with astral projection. We felt like that hasn’t been touched on before in a mainstream horror film. Not that I know of at least. Watch some filmmaker read this interview and be like, ‘What about my 1986 classic OUT OF BODY?,” he joked. “It’s a mysterious element of the supernatural that often gets tied in more with the Eastern philosophy than it does with spooky stuff like ghosts coming down your stairs at 3 o’clock in the morning. We wanted to pull into that realm because essentially what is an astral body? It’s a ghost leaving your body and floating around,” Whannell added.

We had a treatment, but we got really busy and we put it aside and made Saw. Late last year we were chatting about doing another independent horror film, the one that we always wanted to make. I hope that people see it,” he exclaimed.

Leigh also divulged some unique research he did to complete the script: “I hung out with a bunch of ghost hunters. We went to an abandoned mental asylum in the middle of the night with these little flashlights. It’s crazy. These people really do this! They have a website. They take it very seriously. I personally have not had a personal experience with ghosts. In a weird way I wish I would. To see a ghost for me would be a great affirmation that there is in fact life after death. James [Wan] has had experiences. I’m kind of jealous,” he joked.

Insidious also features another memorable acting role from the screenwriter himself. In the film Leigh plays Specs, a geeky ghost hunter who manages to steal the show. We asked Whannell how he felt acting alongside such prominent actors.

I really respect these guys as actors. I’ve been a fan of Rose’s [Byrne] for years because she was working in Australian film before she went to the States and became popular with Damages. I remember watching her in the film Two Hands and thinking she had such great screen presence. One of my favorite films is Little Children so having Patrick [Wilson] on board was amazing. It was a little intimidating working with them, but it did make me want to do better,” he admitted. “When you’re in contact with somebody or even better working with somebody who you actually look up to or aspire to be like, that’s an amazing feeling,” he added.

After comparing some similarities with Insidious and Dead Silence, Leigh had no problem talking about the problems with their sophomore effort.

Dead Silence was the film we made after Saw, and we were very young when we made Saw. Wwhen you come into Hollywood like that and you have that breakout success, everybody around you starts telling you the rules. ‘You guys don’t know the rules; you just got here.’ So you listen to them. These guys live here and have been in the business for years so we better do what they say. That’s not necessarily the case,” he divulged. “After the 5 to 6 years I’ve lived in LA, now I know there are no rules. I feel like we rushed into Dead Silence, and I don’t think that film turned out the way we wanted it to. It wasn’t our definitive horror film. Insidious is like us going back and making the film we actually wanted to see, and with Dead Silence there were some great ideas, but you only get to see the final product, I know about the original idea. I know what Dead Silence could have been. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out. Now I’m just glad to be able to come back full circle,” he explained.

After going on a hilariously long tangent about how Specs deserves his own film and he’s more handsome than James Bond and stronger than Indiana Jones and how there were action figures in the works (nice try Leigh! :P), Whannell informed DC about his future writing projects.

I am writing three different films right now actually. I have one that’s going to take place in Australia with one of my best friends, Angus, who plays Tucker in Insidious. He’s actually a well-known comic actor in Australia, too. I have an animated children’s film I’m also working on. I have a lot of different genres I’m working, and I feel comfortable putting Insidious out there because even though James and I are known for horror, I have all these other projects that are really different and I can’t wait to show them,” Whannell exclaimed.

After seeing both Insidious and the charming filmmaking duo in person, I am happy to say that Insidious is the definitive film that James and Leigh were hoping it would be. Congrats to both filmmakers for a job well done!

Serena Whitney

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Alien: Covenant’s Carmen Ejogo Joins True Detective Season 3

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“From the dusty mesa her looming shadow grows…”

The first season of HBO’s “True Detective” was one of the best seasons ever put on a TV screen. Hands down. The second season was another story altogether. While not a complete waste of time (Colin Farrell owed) the season was basically merely ‘meh’.

But what about “True Detective” season 3?

Well, a few months back it was announced that the third season had been greenlit by HBO, with creator Nic Pizzolatto returning to pen the series and director Jeremy Saulnier (Green Room) taking the helm of the episodes.

Today we have news that Carmen Ejogo – who you may recognize Ejogo from such recent fright flicks as It Comes at Night, Alien: Covenant, and The Purge: Anarchy – will be joining the previously announced Mahershala Ali (Moonlight) for Season 3.

Ejogo will play the female lead, Amelia Reardon, who THR describes as “an Arkansas schoolteacher with a connection to two missing children in 1980.”

Nice Pizzolatto will serve as showrunner and direct alongside Jeremy Saulnier. Executive producers include Pizzolatto, Saulnier, Scott Stephens and season one stars Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey as well as original director Cary Joji Fukunaga. Steve Golin, Bard Dorros and Richard Brown are also credited as exec producers.

Synopsis:

A macabre crime in the heart of the Ozarks and a mystery that deepens over decades and plays out in three separate time periods.

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Danielle Harris Tried to Get Jamie Lloyd into New Halloween Movie

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One of the top films all of us are looking forward to the most here at Dread Central is Blumhouse’s upcoming sequel/reboot thing to John Carpenter’s Halloween.

The new Halloween (2018) film is written by Danny McBride and David Gordon Green and is all set to be directed by Green this year. Recently we learned that original Halloween star Jamie Lee Curtis was going to be returning to the new film.

Not only that, but Curtis’ classic character Laurie Strode would have a daughter… played by Judy Greer. But what about Danielle Harris?

After all, Harris was the star of Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers and Halloween 5: The Curse of Michael Myers. Let alone, she had a starring role in both Rob Zombie’s remake and it’s sequel. So how about the new film?

Turns out Harris tried to get her character Jamie Llyod (aka the daughter of Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode) from Halloween 4 and 5 into the new film… but she was turned down by Blumhouse and the new creative team. That sucks.

Harris was pretty bummed about the whole deal and took to Facebook recently to clear the air. You can check out quotes from her video, along with the video itself, below.

After that make sure to hit us up and let us know how much you would have liked to see Harris return to Halloween in the comments below or on social media!

“What I am bummed about is… [Laurie] has a daughter,” Harris says. “I was okay with it when she had a son… but they’re saying it’s the last one and… she has a daughter. And it’s not Jamie. It’s just kind of a bummer, I guess. I think somebody had said, it wouldn’t have hurt the movie to have Jamie reunited with [Laurie]. But that didn’t happen.”

“We did put in a call, thought it’d be kinda cool even just to have a little flashback…” She continues. “They were not interested. So. I tried.”

Blumhouse’s Halloween hits theaters October 19, 2018.

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Posted by Danielle Harris on Monday, November 6, 2017

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Through the Cracks – Trick or Treat (1986) Review

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Starring Marc Price, Tony Fields, Lisa Orgolini, Glen Morgan, Gene Simmons, and Ozzy Osbourne

Directed by Charles Martin Smith


I have been a horror fan for more than half of my life at this point. Meaning I have seen most of the quality horror offerings under the sun. But that said, every once in awhile a classic sneaks past so we wanted to create this “Through the Cracks” review section for such films.

Case in point, I had never seen the Halloween horror flick Trick or Treat until last night. I know, right? How the hell did that happen? But these things do happen and so for everyone that has seen the flick a million times, this will be a review of the movie from a super horror fan that – at the age of 33 – is seeing Trick or Treat for the very first time.

Now let’s get to it.

First off you have to love the movie’s plot. Mixing horror and heavy metal seems like a given, yet preciously few films Frankenstein these two great tastes together.

Like many of you out there, I am a big metal fan as well as a big horror fan. The two seem to go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Or Jason and horny campers.

I dig bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and even those hair metal bands (Dokken forever!) and I’m well aware of the legends surrounding playing these records backward.

Off the top of my head, the only other flick that combines the two to this degree is the (relatively) recent horror-comedy Deathgasm. I say more horror-metal flicks! Or should we call it Metal-Horror? Yeah, that’s a much more metal title.

It only makes sense that someone, somewhere would take the idea of “What if Ozzy Osbourne really was evil and came back from the dead (you know, if he had passed away during his heyday) to torment a loner fan?” Great premise for a movie!

And Trick or Treat delivers on the promise of this premise in spades. Sammi Curr is an epic hybrid of the best of the best metal frontmen and his resurrection via speaker is one of the great horror birthing scenes I have seen in all my years.

Add to that the film feels like a lost entry in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. More specifically the film feels like it would fit snugly in between two of my favorite entries in that series, Dream Warriors and The Dream Master.

This movie is 80’s as all f*ck and I loved every minute of it.

And speaking of how this film brought other minor classics to the forefront of my brain, let’s talk about the film’s central villain, Sammi Curr. This guy looks like he could share an epic horror band with the likes of Mary Lou from Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and the Drill Killer rocker from Slumber Party Massacre Part II.

Picture that band for a moment and tell me they aren’t currently playing the most epic set in Hell as we speak. I say let’s see an Avengers-style series of films based on these minor horror icons sharing the stage and touring the country’s high school proms!

In the end Trick or Treat has more than it’s fair share of issues. Sammi Curr doesn’t enter the film until much too late and is dispatched way too easily. Water? Really? That’s it?

That said, the film is still a blast as director Charles Martin Smith keeps the movie rocking like an 80’s music video with highlights being Sammi’s rock show massacre at the prom and his final assault on our hero teens in the family bathroom.

Rockstar lighting for days.

Even though the film has issues (zero blood, a rushed ending) none of that mattered much to this horror hound as the film was filled to the brim with striking horror/metal imagery and a killer soundtrack via Fastway and composer Christopher Young.

Plus you’ve got to love the cameos by Gene Simmons (boy, his character just dropped right out of the movie, huh?) and Ozzy Osbourne as a mad-as-hell Preacher that isn’t going to take any more of this devil music. P.S. Watch for the post-credits tag.

More than a few of my closest horror buddies have this film placed high on their annual Halloween must-watch lists. And after (finally) viewing the film for myself, I think I just may have to add the film to mine as well. Preferably on VHS.

Trick or Treat is an 80’s horror classic. If you dig films like Popcornand if you put the film off like I did, remedy that tonight and slap a copy in the old VHS/DVD player.

Just don’t play it backward… God knows what could happen.

All said and done, I enjoyed the hell out of my first viewing of Trick or Treat. But what do YOU think of the film? Make sure to hit us up and let us know below or on social media!

Now bring on Trick or Treat 2: The Prom Band from Hell, featuring Sammi Curr, Mary Lou Maloney, and Atanas Ilitch’s Driller Killer from Slumber Party Massacre Part II!

  • Trick or Treat (1986) 3.5
3.5

Summary

Charles Martin Smith’s Trick or Treat is a sure-fire Halloween treat for fans of 80’s horror flicks, as well as fans of heavy metal music.

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User Rating 3.25 (12 votes)
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