You want to get really scared at the movies? Try jumping in to direct the fourth installment of a successful franchise.
It certainly helped that before getting hired for “Insidious: The Last Key,” Adam Robitel had been a fan of the “Insidious” horror films, ever since catching an early screening of the 2011 James Wan-directed original at a film school. He also had long been friends with one of the franchise’s stars, Lin Shaye, working with her as an actor in other movies.
“So it was super cool, and I felt like I was dog who caught a bus,” Robitel tells Made in Hollywood reporter Patrick Stinson. “It’s a big bus and it’ll run you over if you’re not careful.”
He credits Leigh Wannell, star and the writer of the series, for guiding him through the process. “Leigh was super gracious and I learned a lot from him,” says Robitel, “and I was able to put my own stamp on it.”
As with all horror films, he says, the secret to pulling off effective frights is to get the audience invested in the characters. In “The Last Key,” Shaye’s parapsychologist Elise Rainier receives a disturbing call from a man who claimshis house is haunted. The house turns out to be the home where Elise grew up. Accompanied by her two investigative partners, she travels to Five Keys to confront and destroy her greatest fear — the demon that she accidentally set free years earlier.
“You have to really pull the audience in and have them relate to the characters,” says Robitel. “For me, It always starts with characters that you care about and a situation that pulls on the heartstrings. If you go on the journey with the characters, then the scares will follow.”
His biggest challenge was to make sure the sequel lived up to the predecessors.
“You always hope that a sequel can stand on its own,” he says. “It’s about Elise realizing things about her father an her house and secrets from her past that she gets to uncover. It’s an origin story for her. I think for all those reasons, there’s a reason for the movie to exist.”