The famed horror duo, director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell, have reunited with the original Insidious cast to bring us a terrifying sequel to the esteemed horror film, following the Lambert family as they seek to unravel the mysteries behind a childhood secret that has left them perilously connected to the spirit world.
With the release of Insidious: Chapter 2 only one day away, Cinema Chords caught up with one of the film’s stars Danielle Bisutti. In this extremely open and honest interview, Danielle speaks about her experiences with astral projection, how she sees James Wan as Willy Wonka and why she believes too much violence in video games and films can have negative effects on you.
I’m going to guess you’ve seen the first Insidious?
I have and it terrified me. I couldn’t sleep for 2 weeks! James Wan shows very little..very little blood, I mean it’s definitely not a bloodbath or a slasher movie. It’s just what could happen if that spirit realm came into the realm of the living. The probability of it is so much more greater and that is what is so terrifying. He touches on that fear that we all have. For example, you’re walking through your house at night to get a glass of water and you think you see something in the corner. I mean, was that a spirit, a ghost? I have had some moments in my life like an outer-body experience. I’ve had a few moments where that has happened to me so the idea of it and the scope of it didn’t seem far out of reach. It actually felt like “Oh God, I actually feel like I’ve done that.” *Laughs* Like, can you imagine yourself at a red door about to go into The Further?! It’s just horrifying.
I’ve had a few lucid dreams where I’ve realised I was dreaming and done all this crazy stuff because I knew it wasn’t real. I haven’t astral projected, I think that would be scary.
It is cool, it’s sort of a scary feeling but it’s an interesting sensation. I’ve had that experience of lucid dreams as well, where I’ve been like, “Oh I know I’m dreaming, so now I’m going to fly and jump off a cliff and fly round the world..!”
So, how did you get involved with Insidious Chapter 2?
I auditioned. It’s funny, because when I got the audition I was shooting an episode of Grey’s Anatomy and my manager called saying, “They’re only seeing girls today before 6pm, can you make it?” And I was like “No, I just gave birth on Grey’s Anatomy and I’m about to shoot my scene!”
He talked to casting and asked if I could put myself on tape tomorrow and send them the tape. James Wan was having a very challenging time finding an actress to play the role that I have in the movie and was going to take the weekend to look at the footage from that Friday. So, I wrapped Grey’s Anatomy, ran to my friend’s birthday party and ran home to look at the slides, went to my coach and I just went for it!
The character that I play, her name is Michelle – the way they have her listed in IMDB is ‘Parker Crane’s Mother’ because I don’t think they ever call her Michelle in the movie. I am a memory, not necessarily a ghost, but you know when people go into The Further and they get stuck? Well, when I auditioned, I didn’t know that’s what she was. I thought I was some ghost who tormented this family. What James Wan asked for was a very grand, authoritative, theatrical and evil Disney character type of presence and vocal quality.
Well, here’s a bit of trivia about me: When I was 18 years old I played Cruella De Vil at Disneyland. I would walk round as the Glenn Close rendition of Cruella with these thigh-high red-heeled boots and I would walk around with my long cigarette stick and my coat scaring children all day long. It was just so fun! The parents loved it, too! So, in this tape I was as evil and creepy as I could be. James saw the tape and he was just blown away by it, originally they wanted someone older so they were like, ”OK this is a bit different from the original vision.” But there was something about what I did on that tape that made their minds change. My character is the lead spectre and the reason why this family is getting haunted; it’s due to some issues my character had in her past. So yeah, I got the phone call and I got the job.
I’m so jealous of your job to be Cruella De Vil, that must have been so much fun!
That was a highlight, for sure, for me in college. I was a college student by day working in the theatre department and moonlighting as Cruella De Vil at night.
Like you said, your role in the film looks to be very ghost-like, you walk through a wall and look generally very scary. Did you have a lot of fun playing your role in the film?
Absolutely! I think it’s always fun to be the “villain” and the one that’s putting you on edge. The way that I talk about my character is that she’s that ghost that you think is sitting in the old rocking chair in your living room. She’s the woman that you never want to see at the foot of your bed when you wake up from your lucid dream and you think you see someone. James Wan really touched on that elemental and childhood fear of seeing a woman in white walking into your closet.
In your opinion, how does Insidious Chapter 2 compare to the first one?
Well, what’s really fantastic about the second one is that it is a continuation of the first one – when you find out that Patrick Wilson’s character has come back from The Further and spirit potentially grabs on to him, right? What is so satisfying about the second one is I think that it’s equally as terrifying and a great continuation to the cliff-hanger.
Like in Chucky, you’re not quite sure why this spirit chose their son to torment. Why does a spirit need to be living through this child’s life? Well, there’s a very specific reason why this ghost, who is my son as an adult, is trying to re-live his childhood through somebody else’s. His childhood was horrific and filled with terror and abuse.
If the sequel answers all the questions from the first one, does this mean we won’t be seeing an Insidious Chapter 3?
I think there’s a sense of completion with the Lambert family and you will get a sense of “Oh, I know what’s happening with the family and here’s the sense of resolution.” I think you know that they’re going to be OK, but you also get a sense that this life in The Further is not done. The ghosts that are stuck there, they could potentially be doing this to other families and other families have the potential to astral project.
Would you like to see another Insidious film?
You know, I’m a big ‘fraidy cat! I don’t rush to the cinema to see scary movies. Do I want one because I think that James Wan is an absolute genius? Yes! Right now with The Conjuring and the second Insidious he is only getting bigger after his legacy with Saw. Everything he touches turns to gold so, in that sense, I would love to see another. Obviously, I have a vested interest now that I have a stake in the movie, I probably would see it. *laughs* But it would go against every fibre of my being, because I’m such a ‘fraidy cat.
It would be great if James Wan stayed as director. In my opinion, the Saw movies got worse and worse when he left the franchise. I’d hate for that to happen to Insidious.
That’s very insightful of you, yeah. I think James was proud that he was at the genesis of this long-lived legacy of Saw, but it really was just the first one that has his stamp as a director and a visionary on it. I think that it did detract from the brilliance of what it was at the beginning. I don’t think he would let go with Insidious like that, but I have no idea. He’s now directing Fast and Furious 7 and has jumped ships into, not a completely different genre, but it’s cars, hot girls, action and fast-paced. I’m not sure what his temperature is..whether he leaves horror for a while and then goes back to it.
What was it like working with James Wan, would you work with him again?
I would work in any film he wanted me to! I liken him to the Willy Wonka of directors; there’s something innocent and childlike about him and then there’s a glisten in his smile and a twinkle in his eye that can be a bit sinister. *laughs.* You know he’s in charge and you trust him. Like, you know the boat scene in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory where the rowers are rowing and the lights are flashing and you think it’s fun? And then, all of a sudden, you enter this tunnel and the lights are shadowy and he starts singing this really weird song and you’re like,”What’s happening, what’s happening?! I’m in this boat and I’m scared!”
I’ll never forget that moment when I first watched the original! That was really scary.
It was very scary and that’s what it was like for me to work with James Wan in this movie! I always knew he had my back as a director, but he’s so brilliant that I think he’s in this other world. Sometimes I was in awe and other times I felt very much on the same page and plane as him. What was so great was that as I had to play a ghost, I had to step out of the mortal realm, I had to go into this other world where different rules applied. It was like a lawless land where I was almost in a groundhog day and on a repeat of this moment with my son. I was able to go to the depths of my own horror, sadness, anger and what was happening inside me as an actor; I could let it all out. We had a wonderful working relationship and very much trusted each other. I’d work with him in a heart-beat.
I don’t know whether you’ve noticed, but there’s not too many original horrors out there at the moment. Many are sequels or remakes. I think Insidious is one of very few modern horrors, especially one that has been so positively received. What is it about Insidious that everyone loves so much?
It’s Interesting that you say that and that’s another great observation. Insidious broke so many records at the box office, I think they made it for just over $1 million and it made close to $100 million. I don’t know the exact numbers, but it’s something that dramatic.
The Conjuring, another original and directed by James Wan, had a similar situation. They made it on a fairly modest budget and it just crushed at the box office. I think it holds the record for the highest opening weekend for any original horror, ever. Under the guidance of James Wan..I mean, what is it about this guy?! It’s because with him less is more. There’s a very specific choreography and the reveal that takes you by surprise. One second you’re looking at someone and you cut to someone else and then back to that person, and there’s someone creepy standing behind their shoulder. It’s those jolty moments that you’re totally not expecting and he has one foot in reality and one in the spirit realm. There’s not a lot of blood and there’s not a lot of gore, but there’s absolute terror.
Another thing I’ve noticed about horror is that there has been either an audience shift in interest or a shift in what directors want to portray. Think back to the beginning of the 2000s where there were loads of torture and gore-centred films like Saw and Hostel, and now in 2013 we have loads of supernatural horrors and possession films. It seems that directors, instead of trying to be as gory as possible, like they were previously, they’re trying to be as creepy as possible. Why do you think this is?
Well, humans have been murdering each other since the beginning of time. And as of late, especially in the US I would say specifically, there have been loads of random horrific acts including the murder of children. Basically, individuals that have lost their minds and go on these killing sprees and I wonder if because we’re so saddened by that, so maybe even hardcore horror devotees are trying to take the focus off the torture of human beings and putting it more in the terror of the spirit realm or alien realm, you know? I personally resonate more towards that. It’s very hard for me to watch too much torture of human beings.
I think that’s actually a very good point. Maybe films have decided to not glorify the torture of human beings anymore in the hope it might stop these horrible crimes.
We’re all affected by what’s happening around us. Specifically, if you’re an individual who is constantly watching very aggressive films then that is going to affect your brain chemistry. I would actually point the finger – I don’t know if this going to come back and bite me – but I think video games are having the most profound negative affect on children. This is especially the case when parents don’t regulate when their young children who are still in their formative years – forming ideas about who they are and those around them – are playing Call of Duty as these mass-murderers and these snipers… Kids’ imaginations are limitless at that age. They don’t understand the scope around picking up a gun and walking into a school and doing these mass murders. I don’t want to go off on a tangent but, yeah, I think maybe that’s why things are moving. Also, we’ve been in this war with first Afghanistan and then Iraq; there’s this weird Cold War where men and women are still over there in the Service that are dying. I mean, I don’t know whether film-makers are making a different choice or the audiences are dictating it, but I don’t think there is a unilateral decision. Everything affects everything, you know?
We could definitely talk about that topic for a long time. But let’s end on a positive note as I ask you what kind of films you’d like to do next?
Good question! I would love to work with J.J. Abrams on television. I think he’s brilliant. I was a huge fan of Lost; he does sci-fi but it is very character-driven and clearly he was such a master at rebooting the Star Trek franchise. He has a real sensibility about the emotional human experience. Also his take on the supernatural and alien life forms; are they really out there? Do they already have a pull on humanity? Are they infiltrated within the society without us even knowing? I love all those types of questions and I just think he’s masterful with his relationships with characters.
Film-wise, I’m very happy that I have a comedy coming out as a follow-up to these movies clearly in the horror genre. As human beings, none of us like being pigeon-holed, but I absolutely, with pride, wear the crown of the Scream Queen right now. I think a great step would be to go in to sci-fi and I would do a sci-fi film or TV show any day of the week, but I just saw the movie The Way, Way Back and it has a Little Miss Sunshine sensibility to it. You know, an indie-smart kind of film. It has fractured people and flawed characters doing their best. I’d love to be part of a film that has that in it. Not super glossy, but just real character-driven, steeped in reality and maybe a little neurotic *laughs*.
We’d like to thank Danielle for her time and urge you to head over to the cinema to catch Insidious Chapter 2 tomorrow. We’ll leave you with the latest featurette for the movie as James Wan and Leigh Whannell explain how they were able to pack so many more scares into the sequel compated to the 2011 original.
Watch this space as Danielle also stars in the soon-to-be-released Curse of Chucky which we also spoke to her about.
Find all UK ticket details for Insidious Chapter 2 right here.