What scares the stars of a horror movie like Insidious?
What’s behind your Red Door..?
There’s something within us humans that seems to draw us towards oblivion. A quirk of our DNA or design, that throws off the self-preserving mandates of the evolutionary imperative, and urges us to imperil ourselves, all for the sake of a fleeting adrenalin hit. Whether it’s the voice that calls from the void, telling us to leap out of a plane attached to a voluminous stretch of nylon, to swim with apex predators, ride on rollercoasters, hang out in the overtaking lane doing 20kph under the limit, or ask someone ‘how far along” they are, without being absolutely certain that they are actually pregnant.
It also takes a certain sort of person to sit through today’s new breed of horror movie. Filmmakers have been honing the science of scream for years – ratcheting up the jump scares, tweaking visual triggers, refining timing and making the soundtracks even more haunting. But what about those men and women that work on these films, that have looked under the curtain, through the movie magic and know all the tricks and scare tactics. What frightens these people?
With Insidious: The Red Door (which we watched in a movie theatre, on our own, and we’re still ready to fully process it) landing in UAE cinemas on Thursday July 6 (book your seat here), we had the motive, and the opportunity to delve into the fear of the seemingly fearless. This is the fifth movie in the Insidious universe, with a directorial debut from returning saga star Patrick Wilson who portrays the central family’s father (Josh); it also sees young actor Ty Simpkins (Dalton), who quite literally grew up with the Insidious family, now a weathered teenager heading off to uni, leaving all that unpleasantness of the past far behind.
Of course you can’t really bury ‘The Further’ for long, and the demonic beings that dwell in astral projection limbo can’t resist throwing their own harrowing brand of frat party in Dalton’s dorm. Fortunately, Dalton does have one friend on the right side of the ouija board, Chris (played by Sinclair Daniel), who provides some very, very welcome comic relief. We spoke to these brave, ethereal battle weary souls (along with producer, and fright flick magnate Jason Blum) to find out what makes them tick, and what makes them sick with abject terror…
What’s On: What’s the recipe for the perfect cinema horror experience for you?
Patrick Wilson: Well, I think for me, what’s interesting about Insidious and different to a lot of other films, and certainly the horror movies, I have two teenagers and my sons are pretty objective, so when my 13-year-old loves the Insidious movies, it shows they can appeal to a younger audience as well.
As a parent, you look at what the movie has in it. Is there violence? Is there nudity, blood, bad language? All those things are triggers to a lot of parents, and rightfully so. Insidious never had that. It relied on a lot of practical effects and quirky, weird, scary, creepy, ghouls. And to some audiences, that is far more terrifying than extreme violence or a Jason or a Halloween movie.
Insidious has its own energy, and I really wanted to tap into the first two movies and carry that onwards. You have very real emotional situations, but then you put it in this supernatural, outlandish world, and I love that. It’s what a lot of Italian horror was to me in the 70s. And it’s following the heels of Stephen King, who did that better than anyone. So, yeah, that’s kind of where it is for me with Insidious. It’s a much different feel than Conjuring or any other series.
WO: For this movie you sit in the director’s chair as well as reprising your role as Josh, how did this hopping from one side of the camera to the other change your experience of making movies?
PW: It’s funny. it was a new experience for me, so everything was different, so I don’t have anything to relate it to. I mean, the guys that I have loved watching over the years, like Clint Eastwood. I watched a lot of his movies in the 70s when he started directing and I was kind of curious, what that experience was like. And Braveheart, imagine shooting that kind of stuff as well as being in it. Or Ben Affleck’s stuff I really love too.
I think it’s different, for every actor or director but the most challenging thing for me, whay I had to really conscious about how I addressed it, was… actors should never give another actor direction, right? Just a big no no. So all of a sudden, you find yourself in a scene with someone and you are their director. So so having to navigate that and going back to watch the playback and then coming back and giving notes, you want to make sure you’re with a group of people that understand that this is just the process, because you don’t want the other actors to feel like their scene partner is judging them. There’s usually a camaraderie with the actors, and there’s the director department. So when you’re doing both, it is a little bit of a dance, you just have to talk about it with the actors and make sure we’re all on the same page.
Ty Simpkins and Sinclair Daniel
What’s On: So Ty, you’ve been with this, what is one of the best-loved horror sagas in movie history right from the very start. How do you think this fifth Insidious entry compares in terms of content and scare?
Ty Simpkins: It really builds off the original family, the original story and it feels very seamless with how it connects. It’s a nice send off for the Lamberts and I’m very proud of it, it’s very scary.
WO: It is super scary, we can confirm. Sinclair, your character provides some welcome comic relief, but if she were to get her own spin off, what would it be called and could you give us a brief synopsis please?
Sinclair: I’d call it, What’s Up With Winslow? And it would probably be a couple of years after she graduated, and she runs a supernatural research firm, just a wise-cracking ghost buster.
WO: Like a ouija board detective thing? Cool, yeah that’s what I see for you too. Both, if you dove into The Further – what would you least like to see on the other side of that Red Door? What are you most scared of?
TS: Maybe I’d see like a gigantic spider or something straight out of the uncanny valley theory (we urge you to Google this if you’re unfamiliar with the term), a thing that looks really human, but there’s just something slightly off you know?
SD: I was going to say, like seeing a family member, but haunted. Someone that I love, yeah that would mess me up.
WO: What do you guys think is the recipe for making the perfect horror cinema experience?
SD: I think a crowd, I know you watched the movie alone, I’ve done that too, but I think a really lively crowd, that are not afraid to get vocal is a great cinema experience.
TS: I think to really capture those moments, you need a really good score. You need really good music to build the tension, but as an actor you really need to work on building up to the scare. There’s a lot of technical stuff that goes into it, that I never really fully realised, you have to move SO slow. In order for the tension to really build.
Jason Blum (producer for Insidious: The Red Door, founder and CEO of Blumhouse Productions)
What’s On: How important is the score when making a horror movie?
Jason Blum: I think for horror, the score is more important than for other genres, I actually think that it’s a crucial piece of the puzzle, and to make a scare work, you have to combine a bunch of factors. The most important is the editorial, the timing of a scare, but certainly the score and the lead up. You’ve got to relax the audience, and get them off guard, if you’re anticipating a scare, the scare doesn’t work, the scare isn’t scary. So one of the most effective ways to get the audience to relax, beyond what you’re seeing on the screen, is with the score. So it’s a crucial part of almost all horror movies, not so much in A Quiet Place, but of all the other horror movies.
WO: Are you someone that finds scary movies scary, or are you numb to it now, do other real life situations scare you more?
JB: Yeah, I’m not scared by horror movies any more, so I’m numb to it. I shouldn’t’ say never, but it’s very rare. No, real life scares me much more. Donald Trump scares me, I took a break from having to say his name, but I’m probably going to have to say it again now. I think the reason why people love these horror movies, is because there are all these real world threats that you can’t control, when you see a movie, you can control it, you can walk out. So, I think that’s why horror is so appealing.
WO: What’s the next step for the Insidious universe? And will we ever see a serialised streaming show based on the movies?
JB: A serialised streaming show? I hope not, I guess it’s possible, I’d rather stick to movies, but at the moment there are no immediate plans. There are other movies we’ve talked about but, we’re focusing our energy on this movie, hoping it’s a success and if it is, we’ll continue in some way or another.
If you fancy testing the limits of your own terror-induced insomnia, you can actually get involved with a Red Door pop-up ‘immersive experience’ at the Vox Cinema in Nakheel Mall, Palm Jumeirah for a limited time from July 6 until July 17. Book your tickets to see the movie: now.