Film News

The Purge 2, The Conjuring 2 & Insidious 3 Are Now in Development, But Are They Doomed to Fail?

UPDATED: 11/20/2013 – Insidious Chapter 3 now has an announced April 3, 2015 release date.  It’s only current scheduled competition that weekend will be a Keanu Reeves-Rachel McAdams sci-fi film called Passengers.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Entertainment One, FilmDistrict, and Sony have announced they are “moving forward” on developing an Insidious: Chapter 3, after Chapter 2 just had one of the biggest openings in the history of horror films (and the month of September for that matter).  The first two films’ screenwriter, Leigh Whannell, is returning to write the third.

Insidious 2 trailer (Screengrab)
Even the creepy ghost lady from Chapter 2 knows this is in no way surprising news.

 Ever since the slasher film craze of the 1980s, this is simply what Hollywood does with horror films: make them on the cheap, pull in a neat little profit, and keep cranking out sequels until audience exhaustion and/or disinterest sets in.  However, as of late audiences have appeared to become hip to the formula.  Last year’s Paranormal Activity 4 was easily the lowest-grossing film in the franchise to date, and even with the boost from 3D this year’s Texas Chainsaw 3D fizzled big time and ultimately failed to come near the domestic grosses of the most recent two Texas Chainsaw films (2003’s franchise re-boot and 2006’s The Beginning).  Plus, recent sequels to “big opening weekend/business fell off a cliff after that” properties like The Haunting in Connecticut and The Last Exorcism went largely ignored and little-seen.

None of this bodes well for a potential sequel to this summer’s earliest big horror film hit The Purge, which opened with $34 million but fell pretty hard in subsequent weeks.  However, the brilliance of Hollywood’s horror film formula is that it takes a complete and utter epic failure (or a complete decade full of too many sequels) for them not to see a profit due to such incredibly minuscule budgets.

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After The Conjuring, an acceptable response to an offer of playing a game of hide-and-clap is to run away screaming.

The Conjuring, on the other hand, is among the best positioned of all recent horror films to spawn a legitimate new franchise.  It is based upon a real life married couple (The Warrens) with a wide variety of paranormal cases encountered in their career, thus offering the possibility for every film to carry the always-enticing-from-a-marketing-standpoint “based on a true story.”  Plus, it bucked all horror film trends by performing incredibly well week-to-week, doing so at both the domestic and foreign box office to end up with a $260 million worldwide gross.   It certainly doesn’t hurt that it also happens to be an amazing film, with a particularly stellar performance from prior Oscar nominee Vera Farmiga.  It’s no surprise, then, to hear that New Line already began development on a sequel prior to the film’s release, and wisely signed stars Farmiga and Patrick Wilson up for at least one additional film.

Insidious: Chapter 2‘s opening weekend went against recent trends, not just in the horror genre but also among other 2013 sequels to cult favorites (e.g., Kick-Ass, Red) that failed to match the business done by the original.  However, Chapter 2 made half of its money on Thursday night preview screenings + Friday the 13th, and has (unlike the first Insidious or Conjuring) received horrible reviews (38% critic approval rating on RottenTomatoes at the time of this writing).  So, it remains to be seen how well it holds up in the coming weeks, but after that huge opening no one can blame the studio(s) for wanting to get to work on another sequel right away.

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James Wan

But do you really want to see a Conjuring sequel or another Insidious sequel not directed by James Wan?  He is on an undeniable hot streak right now, and is the unquestioned new master of ghost stories after having began his career as the director of the first Saw, a very different kind of horror film.  So, of course, he’s jumping ship completely and directing the next Fast & Furious, quitting horror films altogether.  As originally observed by ScreenRant, Wan told Moviefone in an interview in July:

“I’m going to go on record and say I am finished with the horror genre.  Conjuring and Insidious 2 are my last two scary movies…I spent the last ten years of my life doing this. It’s time for a change, for goodness sake! … Hollywood puts you in a box. If you do a successful comedy, then you’re known as The Comedy Guy. If you do a successful car chase movie, then you become that guy. So I’m a student of cinema, so I just want to make sure I get the chance to make other kinds of films.

The producer of the Insidious films, Jason Blum, isn’t totally buying it, telling ScreenRant:

“I think the horror movies that he makes next and certainly the ones that I make are better for working on other genres … I think he says he’s not gonna make another horror movie, but I’m sure that he will and it will be even better for having done Fast and Furious.”

As has usually been the case with the various horror film franchise of the past 30 years, the sequels are increasingly likely to cease innovating and distill the stories down to the most basic elements necessary to string together scary parts/kill scenes.  This usually happens in conjunction when a franchise’s original creator steps away to do different things, such as John Carpenter with Halloween, Wes Craven with Nightmare on Elm Street, and, heck, James Wan with Saw.

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Original director Sean Cunningham also left the Friday the 13th franchise after the first film, coming back as a producer for the franchise ever since Jason Goes to Hell.

 Without Wan around, doesn’t it seem highly likely that future Conjuring and/or Insidious films could continue this historical trend in the horror genre?  The impressive aspect of Wan’s directing thus far has been his patience and commitment to establishing mood and character to get audiences on the side of the characters before the scary stuff happens, as opposed to the more standard attempts to let the bad stuff happen to horrible people as quickly as possible to satisfy an audience’s bloodlust.  He seems to have a complete grasp of the genre, and used to think up spooky ideas for the films by walking around late at night in complete darkness in his own house to find things that actually scared him to put into the film.  Could any replacement be as patient and innovative (well, innovative may be the wrong word considering the obvious-but-still-effective Poltergeist derivation of the first Insidious)?

The horror genre is desperate for new franchises right now, especially with Paranormal Activity fading, and in the absence of competition these would-be new franchises could continue being financially successful.  Yeah, but will they be worth a damn as movies without Wan, if he, in fact, is truly done with the horror genre altogether?  Actually, maybe it’s a good thing Wan might not come back because then the sequels won’t so effectively scare the crap out of us.  Bad for the films, of course, but good for our blood pressure.

What do you think?  Don’t think Wan is all that important to his films after all, good riddance to him?  Just want to know why You’re Next isn’t getting a sequel, or only really care about The Purge and not the boring, slow-moving old-fashioned ghost stories like Conjuring?  Let us know in the comments.

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