Writer/Director Leigh Whannell Talks ‘Insidious: Chapter 3′

When teenager Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott) senses that her late mother is trying to contact her, she seeks help from gifted psychic Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye).

However, Elise’s tragic past makes her reluctant to use her abilities. After Quinn is attacked by a malevolent entity, her father (Dermot Mulroney) pleads with Elise for help. With support from two parapsychologists, Elise ventures deep into The Further — where she finds a powerful demon with an insatiable craving for human souls. We caught up with writer/director Leigh Whannell to discuss “Insidious: Chapter 3.”

Q: Could you talk about your main goal for the third movie?

A: First and foremost goal was to be scary. That’s really the directive of the Insidious movies, to terrify audiences. So that was really the biggest goal. The other goal was to emotionally engage the audience. I wanted this film to have a true emotional spine, and not have the family drama element be an obstacle, but have it be heart-wrenching for the audience. People should be able to identify with the characters, and I wanted the end of the film to be really cathartic and sad… I wanted that sweetness. Death is a huge part of these films. When you talk about ghosts, you talk about death. Ghosts movies are very focused on death. And that has an aspect that can be made horrific in fiction, with ghosts and demons and goblins chasing after us. And then there is the real life aspect, the way we humans deal with it, which is really sad when someone leaves us that we love, and how do we go on. And I wanted the film to deal with that emotionally. So I tried to pay equal attention to each [goal], while giving them the fear they paid for, while also giving them something they didn’t perhaps expect, which is the emotional response.

Q: What was one of your favorite scenes to direct?

A: They were all great. I really loved shooting the sequence where Sean and Tucker are trying to find Quinn in the house, and it turns out she’s in the closet. She kicks her cast off… it was like a visceral action sequence. So when I was directing it, I wanted to give the audience something visceral. So that was really fun, probably one of my favorites.

Q: Did you want to add anything different to the third films script, that would lead into the first movie?

A: Yeah, I definitely wanted the film to feel connected to the other films, while also feeling like its own piece. I wanted it to have a new family, so I tried to approach it where I said, okay. We know this is going to have to be connected to the other films, but I want it to feel like a stand alone movie, where even if someone hasn’t seen the first two movies, they could enjoy themselves at this film. So I always tried to keep that in mind, to service both, to keep the fans happy and also keep newbies happy. And I hope I achieved that, we did test screenings of the film, and peoples feedback seemed to really reflect that. So I’m happy with the level of newness and level of connection it has. It seems to have equal levels of both.

Q: Talk about the end.

A: Yeah, it ends on an upbeat note, until right at the end. I mean, we talk about scenes I loved directing … the scene at the end, with Quinn around the table. I wanted it to be sad and emotional and sweet, so I really had fun directing that. And that’s kind of a different ending for one of these movies, you haven’t had an ending that emotional before.

Q: How was the cast to work with? Were they having fun on set during this scary production?

A: They were having fun. A horror film set is always a fun place to be. I hear in comedy they are always studious, somber when you are shooting a comedy, but horror is the opposite. I mean, you can be sitting next to someone who is completely covered head-to-toe in blood and having a laugh. Dermot is such a great guy, loves to joke around, Stefanie is very fun, so there’s a very light feeling on set. I really enjoyed it, I felt like I got spoiled, cause now I have the directing bug bad and whatever film I work on next, I’m gonna get my assed kicked from here to Hong Kong.

Q: Have you thought about what’s next for you?

A: I’ve thought a lot about this second film, in my own mind its a crucial chess move for me. People talk about the second album syndrome in the music industry, where a band comes out with a great album that they’ve had forever to write and all of a sudden the pressure is on them to follow it up and often times it fails. And I don’t wanna fall victim to that, I know I can’t really do anything about that, I know it’s outside of me. But, I really wanna be selective and careful about what film I do next. And i’d love to do an original film, love to make something in a different genre, something science fiction or another genre like that. I haven’t really decided yet. I know what I want it to be, but I haven’t really decided what the film is yet.

Q: Different genres?

A: For sure. Sci-fi genre right now, I’m having a love affair with the first Terminator film and I would die to direct something that was reminiscent of that.

The film hits theaters this Friday.