TORONTO—The last time director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell teamed up to create a horror movie, they redefined the genre’s cutting edge with Saw, one of the most successful horror franchises of all time. But in separate interviews at a Toronto hotel, the two lifelong horror fans and best buds from Melbourne, Australia, told the Georgia Straight that their new haunted-house film, Insidious (which opens on Friday [April 1] ), is the movie of their dreams—or nightmares.
It’s a haunted-house horror about spectres in suburbia that takes all the Amityville clichés about a family under supernatural attack and twists them inside out.
Watch the trailer for Insidious.
“This is the horror film James and I have always wanted to make,” Whannell says. “You may say, ”˜But wasn’t that Saw?’ To which I would say, ”˜Saw, to us, was more of a thriller. Saw was a locked-room thriller about two guys locked in a room, trying to get out. It had horrific elements, but this is the horror film.’ ”
Whannell, who appears in the film as a slightly goofy ghostbuster, continues: “We wanted to do a film that was just balls-to-the-walls scary. As a horror fan, I can count on one hand the number of films that have truly scared me. Out of hundreds, possibly thousands, of horror films I’ve watched, it’s just a pathetically small number. You couldn’t do that with comedy. If you met somebody who said, ”˜Well, I can count on one hand the number of films that have made me laugh,’ you’d think it was them that had the problem. Like, where’s your sense of humour, buddy? But nobody refutes it when you’re talking horror, because there’s just so few truly scary films out there. I know that is a subjective thing, because to some 13-year-old girl from Vancouver, her barometer for what scares her might be much lower. I’m just talking for me, personally.”
Whannell says his shortlist of cinematic scares includes The Shining, The Others, and “the first half of Lost Highway.”
Wan—who also edited the low-budget indie that was shot in just 22 days—told the world-premiere audience at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival’s Midnight Madness series that he and Whannell were aiming to create “this generation’s Poltergeist”. And their goal in scripting it was to avoid the clichés from movies like Poltergeist. “We took the concept of a haunted-house film and then we flipped it on its head.”
Wan and Whannell both say they never imagined Saw turning into a franchise, and that’s not their goal for Insidious. But if the movie takes off, they’re ready for it. “Without getting into it, Leigh and I do have a potential continuing story line for this,” Wan says. “I don’t want to get into it, but if there was an Insidious 2, it would be called Insidious: Chapter 2. I love the idea of chaptering it. But I don’t want to talk about it first. First films first. The only way this would have a sequel is if it does well. If it doesn’t make any money, forget about it; it’s a one-off film.”