As if Downtown Los Angeles wasn’t scary enough, when I arrived there earlier this week, there was an ominous, lurking horror underneath a bright, sunny day. While it certainly wasn’t clear, the demonic forces at play, I soon found myself outside of the Herald Examiner Building. It is a large structure located at 1111 Broadway. It stands as a historic landmark which was once home to the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, a newspaper founded by William Randolph Hearst in 1903. Now, it has become a place for filmmakers to create worlds that are fearsome and dark. In fact, with James Wan’s latest feature, it is home to a demon’s lair. Okay, it might not really be a demonic house of hell, but it sure looked like it deep inside thanks to the wonderful design, a hellish place of worship that I will get into later.
Once I arrived on set for INSIDIOUS (One of the possible names for the film), I was greeted by the lovely Jeanette Brill (the line producer and more). She immediately took me on set. I was thrilled to learn that James Wan and Leigh Whannell were working together on this new project. I was even more thrilled to learn that it was worlds apart from SAW. In fact, this story is very different from anything the two have ever really done before. In many ways it is a bit of a genre-bending feature that is part ghost story and part astral thriller. Astral thriller you say? Well, as James was explaining the plot to me, he had to really go into great detail and tell me what exactly was going to happen in this creep inducing thriller. The entire ride I won’t share, because it would be a shame to spoil the ghoulish goings on. But I will give you a taste of what is to come.
The film stars Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne as a couple, married with children, moving into a new home. But it seems the house has issues with this new family, as strange and terrifying things begin to happen, mostly revolving around their young son Dalton. While this may sound like your average haunted house plot, don’t worry, it isn’t. Let’s just say that astral projection comes into play, as does another dimension with a terrifying demonic force. How it all fits together looks to be a treat for an audience looking for a good scare. And for fans of horror, there are a couple of other names in the cast that will definitely invoke some excitement, including Lin Shaye, Barbara Hershey and Leigh Whannell.
Also involved in this film is Oren Peli, the director of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. But this time, along with his producing partners, Jason Blum and Steven Schneider, he stepped in to help Mr. Wan make the movie he really wanted to create. This is not a studio film, where the script will go through numerous changes to please whoever might be in charge that particular week. No, this is all James (with a script by Leigh) and the story he wants to tell… or nightmare if you prefer. Stand or fall, he is the one making decisions, and from the looks of it, he may very well be making the right ones. James let me see a little bit of the film, and I am thoroughly excited. I think one of the most important factors will be the talent in front of the camera. I dare say that both Patrick and Rose are two of the best actors working right now, and they will most certainly add to this goose bump inducing ride.
I had a chance to speak with both James and Leigh about the film and the influences behind it. While you can read the full interviews soon, I did fi nd from James that this was not meant to be an R rated horror film. I hear that sigh as you read this, and yes, I was thinking it for a moment too, but Mr. Wan offered me this bit of relief, “I feel like, if you can make a really scary movie that isn’t R-rated, that is one of the biggest achievements.” He is clearly looking to step away from “torture porn” and try and make a film that truly gets under your skin and stays with you for days. One that doesn’t need to be loaded in all the grooviness that goes into an R-rated horror movie. And since I had the opportunity to see some footage, as mentioned, I can definitely say that there is some really spooky stuff going on here.
You know how I was blabbering about that whole demonic force thing; I have to say that the set for Insidious was truly magnificent. I won’t say where or how it fits into the story arch, being that much of Insidious is reality based, but man did I want to move in to this particular set. It consisted of a large room which feels like some kind of black cathedral. Placed directly in the center of this dark palace is a sort of, sacrificial pillar that is surrounded by archways with a blood red light streaming in from above. Near the back there are two staircases on both sides of the room, one of which leads to a demon’s parlor. This is the kind of stuff that you’d expect to see in those old Seventies Satanic shockers, darkly elegant and atmospheric. The kind of stuff nightmares are made of, or for me, a great place to curl up for a good night’s sleep.
As for the scene going on, I was tossing and turning how much I would share with you guys at this stage in the game. After all, when I go on a set visit, we are usually not shown scenes that are too integral to the plot. But what I saw was clearly part of the climax, and while it may interest some, I think that it might be better left untold, at least for now. But keep a look out for my interview with James Wan, Leigh Whannell and the folks behind the make-up; including a scary ass demon that frightens little children… hell, he frightened me a little bit.
Let me know what you think. Send questions and/or comments to JimmyO@JoBlo.com.