Although director James Wan is taking a leave of absence from the world of horror in order to direct Fast & Furious 7, he’s definitely going out with a bang with his latest, Insidious Chapter 2.
We spoke briefly on the phone during the film’s massive press day at the Waldorf Astoria and here’s what Wan had to say about the new film.
Read our Insidious Chapter 2 review.
Dread Central: This film, to me, is kind of like the “Kid A” of horror films. Radiohead broke down the rock genre and built it back up and it seems that you’ve really deconstructed the haunted house formula and done something much more experimental. Would you agree with that?
James Wan: That’s what happens when Leigh [Whannell] and I get together. We never do the typical, normal things. I’ve always told people if they want the more straightforward James Wan movie, go watch the films without Leigh Whannell. But if they want the more weird, quirky, willing to take chances stuff, than those are the ones I do with Leigh. When we did the first Insidious a lot of people were like, ‘Oh, we love the first two-thirds of Insidious but the last third it became something else.’ So then I gave everyone The Conjuring which was basically the first two-thirds of Insidious and then people started complaining that it wasn’t original enough. Now, you’re going to have Insidious 2 which is something that you’ve never seen before or at least not what you think it is and that’s what you’re going to get. If you like movies one way, then you get The Conjuring; if you like movies another way, then you get Insidious 2.
DC: You’ve definitely covered all the angles. Did you feel like you had to keep the audience guessing this time around because mainstream audiences might be growing a little more savvy when it comes to the setups and scares of ghost stories? Is the massive success you’ve enjoyed with these films too much of a good thing maybe?
JW: That’s a reason why magicians don’t show you their tricks more than once because you start catching on to it. To some degree, I’ve sort of showed my tricks three times in a row. Leigh and I tried to find a different story to tell with Insidious 2. The first one was more of a twist on the haunted house subgenre; the second one is definitely a twist on the domestic thriller subgenre but with a supernatural edge to it. It allows me to play with it and just kind of have fun with it and try different things.
DC: This one is changing it up more with pacing and editing until the usual beats of this kind of movie are fundamentally altered. You don’t really know where it’s going to go.
JW: It’s kind of tricky. You want to keep the audience on their toes as much as you can without alienating them too much so we’ll see if that happens or not because I don’t know!
DC: If the series continues, and The Conjuring possibly as well, are you looking to step into a producer role like you did with the Saw films?
JW: If I’m not directing, then I definitely want to oversee them to some degree, yeah. I’m not sure what that means yet at this point.
DC: Can you also talk about the idea of The Further and how stylized it is in this film? There’s a tinge of melodrama to it. It’s got this really ethereal quality to it. It’s a little cheesy but it’s obviously a look you were going for.
JW: People that are familiar with my work, they definitely know my love for heightened visuals. Heightened visuals doesn’t necessarily mean big effects or stuff like that, right? I made a movie called Dead Silence which is all about a town shrouded in fog and I have a love for that kind of aesthetic. I felt that with Insidious 2 and with The Further that you can go pretty big and you can go very stylized but in a lot of ways I didn’t want to make it too visually big if that makes sense. It’s still a small-budgeted film. It wasn’t like we had dragons and monsters flying around there. Keep it grounded in some respect but kind of play with the metaphysical concept behind it, and play with the fact that that time and space has different relation to what we’re familiar with. It really allows us to have a bit of fun with the story plotting.
DC: With the success of Insidious, you were probably offered a bigger budget to do this. Now in retrospect, do you think it was smart to turn that down and still shoot Insidious Chapter 2 very quickly and really blow it out of the water and not have to worry about it doing bigger box office?
JW: The first one was so indie, and the second one was really indie as well. I don’t think any of us felt that, because of the success of the first movie, that the second one was suddenly going to be this huge film. I don’t think that would have been right for it if we did go down that path. The indie spirit is kind of what made the first one what it is and it kind of forces you into a different kind of filmmaking, for better or for worse. You kind of need to embrace that. For people that want something a little more unique and different, that’s what these films are.
DC: I know you and Leigh came up together in Australia, but you’re from Malaysian descent, is that right?
JW: Yeah, I was born in Malaysia but grew up in Australia.
DC: There’s a lot of different myths of malay ghosts of a lot of different types. Was that ever a starting point or inspiration for you to explore this kind of world?
JW: Definitely. Growing up in an Asian culture and to be subjected to that kind of world, it was something I was always fascinated with. Movies allow you to play with stuff like that and allow you to kind of dig into it and use your imagination to create all the stuff that you’ve heard about and that you’ve experienced maybe, and just put it out there.
DC: Well, I’m sitting in a hotel right now here in New York, and I know that you were in a hotel in New York once and woke up to a crying, whimpering sound and saw a little girl in a Victorian nightgown. Have you seen any ghosts since then and have they started following you home since you keep making these movies?
JW: (laughs) Nice. No, thank god. That was just a one time thing and let’s hope that that never ever happens again. Believe it or not, I find that kind of stuff really scary. I can’t take it. I think part of the reason I can make the movies that I make is because I’m actually really scared of these things. All I do is I just put my fears and all the things that creep me out on screen. In a lot of respects, I have them to thank for, I have my fears to thank for, because I’ve taken my fears and turned them into a career. I wouldn’t want to be part of that world any more than what I need to be.
Insidious Chapter 2 is now in theaters.
Related Story: Check out our Insidious Chapter 2 news archive
Jason Blum’s Blumhouse Productions is producing (with Alliance financing). FilmDistrict will distribute the film theatrically in the United States, with Sony handling the majority of domestic ancillary rights. Alliance will distribute in Canada, the U.K. (through its Momentum Pictures subsidiary), and Spain (through Aurum); and Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions will distribute in all other international territories.
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