An Insight to INSIDIOUS with KAREN BENARDELLO
INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 3 is a scary film. Thankfully, the makers are frightfully nice and approachable. So, expert field reporter KAREN BENARDELLO had a chance to sit down with them and talk about the process of making a tricky sequel and maintaining an in house ethos.
MOVIE VIRAL PRESENTS:
KAREN BENARDELLO MEETS JASON BLUM
Not knowing what’s happening to you, and not being able to imagine what’s to come, both physically and emotionally, as you try to overcome your fears is always a daunting task. Trying to conquer that despair, especially when you’re struggling with the loss of a loved one, is a harrowing experience that several beloved and new characters in the latest entry of the hit ‘Insidious’ series are dealing with, as they attempt to move on with their lives. Insidious: Chapter 3, which marks the feature film directorial debut of franchise writer and star Leigh Whannell, once again intriguingly working with producer Jason Blum and his production company, Blumhouse Productions, to showcase those internal conflicts. The producer encouraged the new helmer to once again creatively focus on the diverse group of characters’ battles over moving on and embracing their lives in the enthralling new horror film.
Insidious: Chapter 3 is set several years before the haunting of the Lambert family that began in Insidious and continued into its sequel. It chronicles how Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) first began battling the spirits that plagued her in The Further. While still emotionally recovering from the unexpected suicide of her beloved husband, Jack (Adrian Sparks), Elise decides to stop using her natural physic gift, as she fears it will maliciously claim her own life. But her outlook on communicating with spirits suddenly changes when she’s approached by young aspiring actress, Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott), who longs to communicate with her recently deceased mother, Lillith (Ele Keats), before she begins college the following year.
While Elise immediately feels protective of the sensitive teenager, the psychic initially refuses to help her, as she’s still not ready to accept her gift as being her life’s true purpose. But after a shocking accident leaves Quinn hospitalized and forced to miss school so that she can recover at home, where she has begun making contact with a spirit pretending to be her mother, Elise feels the need to step in to protect the teen.
As Quinn’s father, Sean (Dermot Mulroney), is still struggling to care for his daughter and her younger brother, Alex (Tate Berney), after his wife’s devastating death, he starts to take more responsibility for them when Quinn is attacked by a malevolent supernatural entity, The Man Who Can’t Breathe (Michael Reid MacKay). After pleading with Elise to help separate Quinn from the malicious entity, who has attached himself to the teen in order to take her soul, she agrees to contact the dead. With the help of her two new colleagues, Specs (Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson), two parapsychologists whom Alex finds on the internet, the psychic ventures into The Further. In her effort to save Quinn, Elise finds herself fighting The Man Who Can’t Breathe, the most ruthless energy she has ever encountered, while she also battles her own personal demons.
Blum generously took the time recently to talk about returning to the Insidious franchise, to once again produce the series’ latest entry, during an exclusive phone interview. Among other things, the producer discussed how he was happy to have Whannell make his feature film directorial debut on Insidious: Chapter 3, after he penned and starred in the first two films. I also got the inside track on the scribe and helmer’s point-of-view; how Blumhouse Productions specialize in producing micro- and low-budget genre movies, because he thinks lower budgets allow filmmakers to take more creative risks; and how he likes to feature some of the same characters from the original films in sequels, because he likes to resolve already established storylines, but he doesn’t want the audience to sit through the same experience more than once.
Karen Benardello (Q): You produced the new horror film, ‘Insidious: Chapter 3,’ after you also produced the series’ previous two installments. How did you come to decide to not only make another entry in the franchise, but to also make a prequel that focuses on the origins of Lin Shaye’s character, Elise Rainier?
Jason Blum (JB):
Well, I decided that since I produced the first two movies in the series, I would come back to continue telling the story. The idea to make this film an original prequel came from Leigh, after he wrote the first two movies. He decided that if were going to make a third film, we should go back to the beginning of the story.
Q: Speaking of Leigh, ‘Insidious: Chapter 3′ marks his feature film directorial debut, after he wrote and starred in the first two movies of the series, which were directed by James Wan. What has your working relationship with Leigh been like throughout the franchise? Why do you think the prequel was the right choice for him to make his directorial debut on?
We have worked very closely together since the first movie. In the first film, and particularly in the second one, a lot of his creative input wasn’t just from a writer’s point-of-view; it was also coming from a director’s point-of-view. We all wanted James to come back to direct, but when he decided to do ‘Furious 7,’ Leigh was happy to sit in the director’s chair on this film. I think he did a really terrific job doing it.
Q: As a producer through your production company, Blumhouse Productions, which is releasing Insidious: Chapter 3, you allow the directors you work with, like Leigh, to maintain their creative freedom, as long as the movies stayed in budget. As a producer, why is it important to you to allow the directors you work with to have that creative liberty?
We have a lot of input, but we offer them as suggestions, not mandates. We have a lot of ideas and data, so we spend a lot of time making scary movies and television shows. But we try to offer as many suggestions as possible to the directors, and allow them to pick the ones they like the best. That’s how the interaction worked between us and Leigh on this film, as well as most of the directors we work with on our projects.
Q: Once the director and the cast sign onto a movie, how involved were you in the filming, as well as the pre-and-post production process? Did you guide the helmers at all, especially a first-timer like Leigh, or do you allow his natural ability and instincts guide his filmmaking process?
Unless we’re having a bunch of problems, I try not to be on the set that often. Usually if I’m on the set a lot, it means the movie’s in trouble. I always hope to visit the set every now and then, but not spend too much time on it. If I’m there too often, we’ve got problems.
I think by the time a movie begins shooting, a producer has done the first half of their job. So if there aren’t any problems, we leave the actors and the director alone. We then dive back into a project during post-production, and work on the distribution and marketing. But during the shooting of the film, there are different people from the company who visit the set, but hopefully I’m not around too much.
Q: Speaking of the distribution process, since your company often releases independent horror films, how do you decide how to distribute each film?
Well, we cut 90 percent of the films in our office, so the directors are working in the same office as we are. Our sequels are always released wide, but with original movies, we don’t have a distribution commitment with the directors. We screen the movies in front of a big audience, and see how the viewers react. We talk to the directors after that, to see if we want to ask someone to spend six or seven times the amount we spent on the budget to release it wide, or if we should distribute it in a smaller way.
Q: Including the ‘Insidious’ franchise, Blumhouse Productions specializes in producing micro- and low-budget genre movies. Why do you feel filming genre films independently is beneficial-do you feel it helps generate creativity in the filmmakers and cast?
I think when you have lower budgets, you’re more likely to take creative risks as a filmmaker. When we have less money on the line, we take more chances. That’s why it’s important to me to keep the budgets down-I think it leads to more creative filmmaking.
Q: Besides writing and directing Insidious: Chapter 3, Leigh also reprised his role of Specs in the film, which also once again features Lin and Angus Sampson. Besides this franchise, you often work with many of the same actors in your films. As a producer, what is the appeal to you to continuously work with actors, even on different series, and how does it benefit your working relationships?
I think when you make a sequel, you’re walking a fine line. You don’t want to repeat too much from the prior movie, and you don’t want to ask the audience to sit through the same experience more than once. But I also think you can’t get too far away from the original when you’re making the next film, either, because then it doesn’t feel like a sequel. So we decided to have some of the characters from the original films come back, while others don’t appear again. So we always talk about how to make it real enough to make it feel worth seeing, but not so new that it doesn’t feel like a sequel.
Q: Also speaking of the audience and their experience watching your films, how much do you listen to what viewers say about the movies when you test screen them during the editing process, as well as the original entries in the franchises when you’re making sequels?
While it is important to us to hear the audiences’ feedback, we don’t always listen to what the fans are saying, as different viewers say different things. But we always look at reactions online, and when people are constructive, we take it into account.
Q: While many films try to find the most inexpensive places throughout the U.S. and the world to shoot, you always shoot on location in Los Angeles. Why is it important to you to always film in L.A.? How do you feel filming Insidious: Chapter 3 on locations throughout the city influenced the story’s creativity?
Like I mentioned earlier, I like filming independently, as it helps build the creativity. One of the reasons why we’re able to keep our films so low-budget is that no one gets paid upfront. So you’re asking the directors, cast and crew to work without getting paid right away. So it makes it easier for everyone if they can stay in L.A., and they can go home every night.
Q: While Leigh directed the third installment of the Insidious franchise, after he wrote the script for the previous two film, what’s the process of finding new filmmakers to collaborate with through Blumhouse Productions?
Well, I see almost every scary movie made at festivals and screenings in L.A., and where ever else they’re playing. Whenever we see something that we like, we meet the director, and try to come up with something together. That’s one of the main ways we try to come up with new movies.
INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 3 is on release in UK Cinemas.
Karen Benardello is a freelance contributor with expertise in covering many genres and events in film, worldwide. She has been published on a range of sites and platforms, including The Movie Network. Twitter follow: @kbenardello