Opening in theaters this weekend is James Wan’s Insidious: Chapter 2. The follow-up to the 2011 surprise hit picks up exactly where the first left off with the Lambert family thrust into a world of psychics, demons and ghosts. Insidious put an entirely original spin on the haunted house subgenre with its unique third act, and Chapter 2 digs deeper into that universe traveling further into the, well, Further and answering any last lingering fan questions. Insidious: Chapter 2 stars Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Barbara Hershey, Lin Shaye, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson, and Ty Simpkins.
A few weeks ago at a Los Angeles press day I sat down for an exclusive interview with Wan. He talked about gaining confidence as a filmmaker, why he wanted to make an Insidious sequel, taking a break from the horror genre, his approach to Fast & Furious 7, future plans with Leigh Whannell and the genre he most wants to do next. Hit the jump to see what he had to say.
In this film your visual style and approach to the Insidious universe, particularly the color and use of movement, has a really strong sense of confidence. Was that something you felt when you were shooting the film?
JAMES WAN: Yeah, I mean in terms of confidence I literally made three very similar films back to back [laughs] so I would hope that by the time I got to the third one that I’ve had a lot of practice. I did very similar moves, similar camera techniques in The Conjuring. I pulled things from Insidious that I applied to The Conjuring, and what I learned from The Conjuring I applied to Insidious 2. So for me, I feel like where I am in my career I feel like it’s a cumulative filmmaking experience that I’ve gathered over the years.
When you are able to re-assemble the entire cast from the first film does that give you a sort of short hand on set and make things move a little easier?
WAN: It did in the respect that I know the characters, because I’m not there trying to find the characters on the day with my actors. I feel like I know exactly what they would do, what they would say, and how they play. So it was easier for me to direct my actors that way. And it was really fun. That was one of the main reasons why I wanted to come back and do Chapter 2. I’ve never done a sequel before, but I was cool with coming back to do this one because I love the characters I created in the first movie.
Well that was something I wanted to ask you about, because obviously Saw spawned a lengthy franchise, but you guys didn’t intend that-
WAN: Yeah, and I never directed a single sequel.
Exactly. So you mentioned that you loved the characters, but I was definitely curious what it was about Insidious that made you want to direct your first sequel.
WAN: Yes, I did really love the characters. It was like coming home to a family reunion. They felt like family to me. And ultimately Leigh and I found a story idea, a conceptual beat that I thought was kind of cool and I was willing to explore more of that. And that made it different enough for me to go, “You know, I can make this a slightly different movie to the first one.” The first Insidious was a twist on the haunted house film, the haunted house sub-genre. Insidious:Chapter 2 is a twist on the domestic thriller with a supernatural twist to it. But also, having said that, for me I didn’t feel like I was making a sequel if that makes sense. I felt like I was making a big movie except half-way through that I ran out of money so I just stopped and that became Insidious. So now I’m coming back to finish the second half of that film and that’s what Insidious: Chapter 2 is.
WAN: [Pauses] I am. Yeah, I’m kind of done.
That’s so sad.
WAN: Well, let me rephrase that. The Conjuring, for me, is my last horror film. Because like I said I feel that Insidious 2is a part of Insidious. So for me that is my last one, but it is only for now. I love the genre a lot, but I do want to take a break away from it.
WAN: Yeah, kind of like what Raimi did, right? Raimi did his Evil Dead trilogy and then he took a long break from that to go do all make the other films he wanted to make and then he came back and did his other horror film.
Yeah, Drag me to Hell is great.
WAN: It was fun, right? It was really cool. Yeah, so I think it’s good. I don’t think I’ll ever completely leave the genre because I just love it so much as a fan, but for a while I’ll just be a consumer as opposed to a producer of the genre.
Of course you are moving into a new genre now with Fast and Furious. I was wondering if there’s anything you’ve learned from the time you’ve spent directing horror that you might want to apply to an action film?
WAN: One of the things I would love to bring to it, having spent a lot of time in the horror/thriller/suspense genre is…I love tension, I love suspense and hopefully I can bring that. That would be my style that I would love to bring to theFast franchise. I want to respect and honor the world that they’ve created so far, which the fans love. [Laughs] They have crazy fans that love that franchise. So I want to honor that and make sure I don’t mess that up too much, but at the same time I want to put my own stamp to it and kind of do what I do best, which is suspense and tension, and hopefully then my action scenes will put you on the edge of your seat.
That sounds awesome. I’m a fan of the franchise and I’m a fan of yours so I’m pretty excited to see what you do.
WAN: Oh good…I’m nerve-wracked [Laughs].
You and Leigh have this great creative partnership and you’ve made some awesome films together. Do you think you’ll continue to do that outside the horror genre?
WAN: Leigh and I have actually come up with some other stuff that aren’t horror at all. We wrote a film noir film that I still love up to today. We wrote a great, great film noir thriller that hopefully one day we can get to visit. He and I talk about sci-fi all the time. We’re big science fiction fans. So regardless of what happens with the Fast franchise I feel like there’s other stuff. I wouldn’t be coming back to horror immediately just because I feel like there’s so many other genres that I want to go off and explore.
Is there one genre that’s above the rest on your must-do list?
WAN: Yes, science fiction. I love sci-fi.