It’s sort of amazing to think that James Wan and Leigh Whannell are the co-creators of one of the biggest horror franchises of all time, financially speaking, and yet they only ever really participated in one film in the series.
How many filmmakers are strong enough to do that? These days, everyone wants their sure thing, their cash cow, the property they can keep milking until they’ve gotten every last dollar out of it. For many filmmakers, if they created something like that, there’s no way they’d ever walk away from the series. Yet with Wan and Whannell, the moment it became apparent that “Saw” was going to spawn a sequel, they moved on.
And so far, they haven’t repeated themselves yet. I may not love “Dead Silence,” but I give them credit for trying something markedly different with their second film, and then they tried something even more different with “Death Sentence,” which I liked but didn’t love. Through it all, I’ve found myself interested in their choices and impressed at how much they’ve avoided doing the easy or expected thing.
Monday morning, I drove down to the Magic Castle, a beautiful Hollywood club and restaurant that is members only. Seeing it in the daytime and being able to walk around and really soak in the details without anyone else there was a treat, but sitting down to talk to Barbra Hershey, Lin Shaye, and Wan and Whannell together was the real reason to attend.
Hershey’s at that stage in the career of an actress where she’s redefining who she plays, and while being relegated to “the mother” roles could be unappealing for some, she seems to be good at finding interesting and provocative variations on the archetype. Between this and “Black Swan” last year, she’s one scary mama. And Lin Shaye, best known to many audiences as Magda in “There’s Something About Mary” has long been one of those character actors who comes in and kills in small roles. Seeing her play a role as substantial as this one is a real treat, and she absolutely rips it up.
Finally, sitting down with Wan and Whannell, their chemistry is quite evident, and it’s obvious that they take great pleasure from what they do. That seems to be the secret of their strategy as storytellers… keep moving forward, and enjoy it.
My review of “Insidious” from the Toronto Film Festival is here, and you should absolutely check the film out as it opens this weekend.