On a new family
Whannell: I didn't think there was much more story to tell with that Lambert family. They'd been through so much with all this stuff that had gone on, and I think it would have been weird for the trailer to be, like, you know, "They’re back! And they're being haunted! Again!" Because haunted house movies are always built on this feeling of what's going on. If you put Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson in this movie and the teacup moves, they’re like, "Oh, shit, it's a ghost again." They're so knowledgeable by now that they could be experts themselves. And so if we take them out of the picture and start thinking of a new family, I thought about what the connective tissue would be. If it's a new family, who's familiar?
On Elise Rainer's story
Whanell: We did this on Saw you know, James [Wan] and I wrote ourselves into a corner in that Lynn died in the first film. I don't think that's a spoiler at this point. She dies. So it's like, we also invented a villain who had terminal cancer.. So when I was thinking about it, I was like, I really want Lin back but I don't want to deal with ghost Lin, you know. I want Lin alive. You don't want morbid ghost Lin Shaye. You want full on, turbocharged Lin Shaye.And then I started thinking about an origin story for her, a prequel set before the first film. And that just became really interesting to me, the idea of seeing Lin years before the first film, and how she got to that point, and what happened to her in her life. And I realized that it could fit well, you know, because these guys, you know, when you met them in the first film they'd obviously been working together. They've probably worked on some other things. And then thinking of ways to tie it into the first film, you know, without giving it away, that sort of little strands that I could connect to the first film, it was exciting. You know, I always love origin stories.
On the visual atmosphere
Whannell: I think there is a little bit of a different feel. I mean, I have my own sort of taste and style that differs a little bit from James. You know, he has a really flamboyant style. He loves Mario Bava and Dario Argento, and he uses a lot of these bright primary colors, especially in the second film. And so I want it to be in the same world as the other two Insidious films, whilst also having a bit of a change. So I think that the demons have a bit of a different look to them, hopefully.
I think the first film had a realistic tone to it as it started before things got really crazy. And I think I really like that, and I wanted to see if I could take the third film back to that first film where you meet a family and it's very real.
On Chapter 3's Demon
Whannell: Well, I was trying to think about him symbolically, as with Jigsaw. With Saw, I was trying to think about what this guy represented, and this idea of sickness and that you might have this clock on your life. With Insidious 3, I started from what's the film about? And I came to the conclusion that every ghost movie is really about death and loss. Like, that's what ghost movies are all about at their very core. And so I think I deal with that in a more literal way. Like the idea of grief and loss, and how do you deal with it when someone's just not around anymore? What if there's a chance to still talk to them?
And when I came at it from that angle, I thought that for me the guy in this film is the living embodiment of cancer. Like, if cancer was a person, it would be this guy. And so it's amazing, once you have a concept like that, like sort of a fortune cookie concept that you can hold in your hand, it's amazing how quickly the visuals of that occur to you. Like, if you just think of what would cancer look like if it was a person, I just instantly thought of this guy and the way he looks, you know. And we ended up getting the guy from Seven. I actually said to Fracturd FX, I was like, "You know, the guy Sloth from Seven, that he tied to the bed and kept him there for a year?" And so that's who we got, that guy, Michael MacKay, the actual guy who was tied to the bed. You know, he's a couple of years older now, but he's that guy, and he just is so great in the role.
On learning from James Wan
Whannell: I'm just trying to do my best. The only advantage I have, if I have one, is that I've sat behind him all this time, watched him making the films, and I think I've probably absorbed more than I thought I did. But he also came to the set and he's given me a lot of advice. I mean, if I'm in trouble, I'll just text him. And it'll be like, so how should I shoot the scare scene? I mean, maybe not that literally, but he is awesome the way he's given advice on things like the best way to scare people. And I think we both have the same taste, as well. We like to shoot things in one shot, not rely on editing or CG or anything, like try and do it practically within the same frame. So, yeah, hopefully if it's half as scary as Insidious or The Conjuring, I'll be happy.
Lin Shaye on the film's personal frights
Lin Shaye: In terms of the scary parts, there is a familiarity of the demons on some level in this film that's a little bit different than what we've seen before. And there's a humanity that's experienced in the deterioration of elements in this film that also, I think, are quite a bit different. So I think it will hit people in a very familiar place. It's not like some just scary face or whatever. There's elements of the story that will touch people in a very human way. There's elements that even a young person, or whatever the target audience is for the film, I think whether it's subliminally or realistically, there's dilemma and problems that this family faces in particular, and who the demon is in this particular case, it has a personal element to it that I think is really, really scary. I mean, seriously scary. It scares me in a different way.
On learning from William Friedkin
Whannell: I remember I used an air horn one time to scare -- this all came from William Friedkin, so here's a story for you: Before I started shooting, I sent William Friedkin a tweet. And he responded in, like, three minutes tops. Which was scary, because I'm like, "Why is William Friedkin on Twitter? Shouldn't he be being William Friedkin?" And I said, 'you know, I am directing my first film. Do you have any advice for me, things you'd wish you'd known before you directed?' And he responds, "Well, let's go out for lunch and talk about it." So I ended up going out to lunch with William Friedkin.
It was surreal. He comes and he sits down. I'd never met the guy. And he barely said hello. He was just like, "First of all, you've got to scare your actors for real. Every time somebody jumps in The Exorcist, it's because I was just off camera firing a gun. Because do you think I could've got that Priest to jump like that when the phone rang? No. I shot a gun." He goes, "That's what you must do." And I'm like sitting there, thinking, great. So I mentioned it to Laz, I was like, "I just want you to know, the first AD, I'm going to have to have some guns." And he was like, "No, you won't be doing that." And I'm like, "Of course, I won't. That would be stupid." So the air horn was the consolation prize. But, you know, I haven't gone as crazy as that. But I’ve definitely tried to create an atmosphere and get everyone into it.
On the film as an origin
Whannell: I think it's an origin story in the sense that you see how Lin got to the place she's in in the first film. And, you know, maybe you get to see how we come into contact for the first time. And a little bit with The Further. I think it's an origin story, to use the often repeated phrase "without giving anything away", you do see how this concept of The Further really comes into contact with this particular character.