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April 2015

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Page 17 of 51 16 POST APRIL 2015 eloved by audiences and studios alike, well-made and original horror and suspense films have al- ways provided great opportunities for neophyte directors like Leigh Whannell. After co-writing and acting in the Saw and Insidious films, two of the most successful horror franchises of the last decade, the Aussie multi-hyphenate threat (he also produces) has now made the transition to directing with Insidious: Chapter 3, taking over from directing partner James Wan, who was tapped to helm the blockbuster Fast & Furious 7. Starring Dermot Mulroney, Stefanie Scott — and Whannell as Specs — the movie prequel gleefully explores a new twisted tale of terror for the poor Lambert family, who are forced to once again deal with terrify- ing demons. Here, in an exclusive interview, the director talks about the timeless appeal of horror, making the film, dealing with all the effects, and his love of editing and post. When you were offered the chance to direct Insidious Chapter 3 by series producer Jason Blum and his highly successful and profitable Blumhouse Productions, were you scared, exhilarated, or both? "Bit of both. Instead of making a few shorts and music videos to warm up, it was like diving off Niagara Falls and learning to swim all at once. And it's not just a big feature film, but one that has a big audience all anticipating it, so that was pretty scary. There was a lot of pressure to deliver, but I just went for it." Did you always want to direct? And how big a transition was it going from being a screenwriter and actor in the Saw and Insidious films to this? "Deep down I always wanted to direct, but I was scared and I avoided it for a long time. I was very happy being a screenwriter and acting. But it was always there in the back of my mind, and when James left to do Furious 7, and I was offered the chance to direct Insidi- ous Chapter 3 by series producer Jason Blum and Blumhouse Productions, it just felt like the right time. And I loved it. Yes, it's as hard and stressful as everyone warned me, but I found it to be far more of an intimate experience than I expect- ed, and really like an extension of writing, as you don't just write about a doorway — you now get to choose the door's col- or and deal with every last detail. I hadn't expected all that." What did you learn from writing those horror films that served you well on this? "Being the writer of the series real- ly helped. I didn't really know many directors, and the best advice I got was from David Michod, who directed Animal Kingdom. He said, 'You don't have to know every single piece of gear on the set — you just need to know the story and characters better than anyone else.' And that's very true." Why do audiences love to be scared? "It's that primeval rush of adrenalin and why people love roller coasters. Fear of the unknown is hovering over us the whole time, even if we're unaware of it, and people like to experience that but in a safe, simulated environment. You can dip your toe into the pool of terror with a movie, without actually having to live through it. So watching someone being stalked may make you anxious and your palms sweat, but it's a very different feeling from the actual reality. I was held up at gun-point once by a mugger, and it was a surreal experience — almost like a movie and a cliché. He actually said, "Give me all your money!" Time does slow down and it's like you're watching yourself go through this." What sort of film did you set out to make? "Obviously I couldn't divert too much from the universe we've created, and there are certain looks that had been es- tablished, but I tried to do subtle things and give it a different feel and look. I told DP Brian Pearson that I loved the look of David Fincher's Seven — and even though we had just a 30-day schedule, I think he really succeeded. James was quite flamboyant with a garish aesthetic in the others, and he loved Dario Argento and all the outlandish European horror guys, so he had all these bright, primary colors flashing through windows, and the demons were very Victorian in dress and so on. But I wanted a dirtier aesthetic, more grungy, and one of the first things I told the production designer was, 'No white Victorian dresses!'" How tough was the prep and shoot? "I really enjoyed the prep, as there's not that awful clicking-meter pressure of the shoot. I tried to be super-organized so that the shoot would go smoothly. And it did, but it was nerve-wracking too." BY IAIN BLAIR B THE TIMELESS APPEAL OF HORROR LEIGH WHANNELL: INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 3 DIRECTOR'S CHAIR Leigh Whannell (right) says he spent a lot of time in preproduction to make sure the shoot went smoothly. PHOTO CREDITS: MATT KENNEDY / FOCUS FEATURES

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