Even one of the most talented screenwriters in horror gets scared by his own product sometimes, especially when it is brought to life by the geniuses at Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights.
“Insidious” writer and “Saw” franchise co-creator Leigh Whannell (above with wife, actress Corbett Luck) recently walked through the latest maze at the Hollywood theme park’s annual living, breathing, three-dimensional world of terror — and while he lived to tell the tale, he didn’t emerge completely unscathed.
But Whannell was not half as disturbed as the thousands of other screaming guests getting leapt on by the Red-Faced Demon or stalked by the Long Haired Fiend from the franchise he brought to life with director James Wan.
“The designers are such geniuses and have so much passion,” Whannell told TheWrap of the maze creators. “They are so detail-oriented and the ‘Saw’ mazes especially are very high tech. I really do enjoy seeing people get scared.
“The biggest moment that gave me goose bumps was when I saw the 12-foot poster for all the mazes with the titles for ‘Saw’ and ‘Insidious,'” he said. “It hit me that these films that only existed in my brain now belong to the fans.”
The “Insidious” series, which totals four films including “Insidious: Chapter 3” on which Whannell made his directorial debut, is a supernatural horror based on a couple whose son inexplicably enters a comatose state and becomes a vessel for ghosts in an astral dimension who want to inhabit his body in order to live once again.
“Having a maze built that is based on a film you’ve created is an amazing bonus prize that only comes after its connected with an audience,” Whannell said.
The nightmare-inducing maze is joined at Halloween Horror Nights by FX’s “American Horror Story: Roanoke,” Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining,” “Saw: The Games of Jigsaw,” “Ash vs Evil Dead,” plus Jason, Freddy and Leatherface in “Titans of Terror,” the horrors of Blumhouse with a “Purge,” “Happy Death Day” and “Sinister” combo, and the post-apocalyptic world of “The Walking Dead.”
Dare to brave them all between now and Nov. 4 — or simply sit back in safety and read TheWrap’s interview with Whannell below.
TheWrap: What was the first horror movie that really scared you?
Leigh Whannell: When I was about six, a girl at school told me stories about this film “Jaws,” which I hadn’t seen. I now realize she was making up a lot of what she said, like that the shark ate a plane then came up on the beach. I begged my dad to let me watch the movie — and then I wasn’t even disappointed that Jaws didn’t eat a plane! It really scared me for a good few years, I had to sleep above the bedcovers as I was terrified that the shark was under the sheets. Sharks are a real issue in Australia, so “Jaws” could so easily come true.
What do you think is most terrifying for modern-day movie audiences?
It depends on the mood, I think ghostly horror stuff captures everyone’s fears more than real-life terror because even armed home invasions won’t statistically happen to many people. But when you watch a scary supernatural movie, it is really easy for our imagination to take hold. My mum tells me ghost stories and I don’t think she has the inclination or imagination to make it up, so I don’t doubt that it is true. It makes me believe there is something beyond our conception. There’s a lot of things human beings still don’t know, even though we think we we’re so smart … we’re still just apes in shirts.
The Jack the Ripper story still fascinates me as that ship has sailed and we’ll never really know who the murderer was … unsolved mysteries are the scariest things of all.
What do you think of people saying the success of movies like “It” and “Get Out” have made horror cool again?
I don’t know why people keep saying because “It” was a hit, then horror is back in vogue. It’s like suddenly saying breakfast is back. It’s always been there. A few years ago when “Saw” came out and then “The Conjuring,” everyone said “horror is back.” You don’t have the same thing with other genres, like “comedy is back.”
Horror has always been here. The first time anyone could roll a camera, they filmed a vampire. “It” was a bestselling novel in the ’80s and you’re saying its changed the face of horror? “It” is great for horror, but it’s not new.
Why do you think so many small-budget horror movies end up making big profits?
It’s a genre that doesn’t need stars. You don’t need to put Brad Pitt in horror films, so you can make them on a low budget and they actually work better with no-name actors. Sometimes tons of money can actually be detrimental for horror because our private fears are small and live in our heads. Most people’s fears are simply things like being attacked in an alley way or a haunted house.
A good horror film is something you can shoot entirely in a house or the woods, so the bedrock of the genre doesn’t require money. I want my film to be dark, so you turn the lights off … so it’s a very budget-friendly genre.
“Insidious: The Last Key” is set for release in January 2018, it will be followed by Whannell’s upcoming sci-fi thriller, “Stem,” produced by Blumhouse Productions and starring Logan Marshall-Green.
Watch video of the Halloween Horror Nights maze below.