Exclusive Interview With Leigh Whannell On Insidious: Chapter 2

Leigh Whannell Toronto 2010

Actor/writer Leigh Whannell teams up again with director James Wan for Insidious: Chapter 2. The two have worked together on Saw, Dead Silence and the original Insidious, but this new sequel may be their most challenging project yet. The first film was clever in how it subverted the haunted house genre and it left you wondering where they could possibly go with a sequel. But as it turns out, the duo have not so much created a sequel as they have a continuation of the events started by its predecessor.

Recently, while out doing some press for the film, I had the chance to go 1 on 1 with Leigh when he stopped by the Four Seasons Hotel for the Insidious: Chapter 2 press conference. Among other things, we discussed where the idea for the sequel came from, budget concerns and more.

Check it out below.

Was it always the plan that you would do a sequel to Insidious or did you start thinking about doing one only after the original was released?

Leigh Whannell: No. The interesting thing about it is I don’t think you can really plan for a sequel. It’s kind of like planning on winning the lottery. If a friend of yours came up to you and you said “what are you doing?” and he said “I’m just shopping for yachts. I bought a lottery ticket this morning,” you’d be like “don’t you think you should wait till you’ve won then shop for a yacht?” That’s really the thought application that James and I had with sequels.

We never thought about anything with the first Insidious beyond that we hoped that people would go see the film. Once people did go and see it and we relaxed a little bit, sighed with relief, then the people at Film District said “what about a sequel?” I remember catching up with James and just thinking “where do we start? What do we do?” There are so many different routes we could’ve taken. It could’ve been a prequel. That was actually one of the main things we discussed for a long time, doing a prequel. We ended up going a different route, but we still kept a bit of prequel in there.

The first film was very clever in how it dealt with clichés we find in haunted house movies and then turned them upside down. Was it more of a challenge dealing with that genre when it came to doing the sequel, or were you looking for different genres to explore?

Leigh Whannell: Yeah I think so. The difficulty with Insidious: Chapter 2 was that we were dealing with a family who had been through the wringer and knew exactly what was happening to them. I think the way to create a lot of terror in a haunted house film is to have a bunch of people who have no idea what’s happening to them, and you sort of live the movie through their eyes. So you want to know what’s happening, this knock on the wall, who’s doing it? Well in part two they know who’s knocking on the wall. They know everything, so how do you create fear in characters who have knowledge?

In a lot of ways knowledge kills fear. Once you know who the boogie man is, once you know what’s under the bed, it can still be frightening but that fear of the unknown is gone. I really think the fear of the unknown is the primary driving force of all horror films, so when you subtract the fear of the unknown we were crapping ourselves for the sequel because we were wondering how to steer this movie. What we came out with was we sort of bumped the film into a different sub-genre of horror. So rather than being a haunted house film like the first one it becomes more of a mystery and almost a domestic thriller. That became the theme James and I stuck to. I think that that was how we saved our asses in terms of being scary because if we made another haunted house movie with ghosts knocking on the wall, the characters would’ve just been like “oh you again?”

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