Dermot Mulroney & Stephanie Scott – Insidious: Chapter 3

June 5, 2015 by  
Filed under Interviews

In “Insidious: Chapter 3,” a prequel to the first two “Insidious” movies that hit theaters in 2010 and 2013, actors Dermot Mulroney and Stephanie Scott play Sean and Quinn Brenner, a father and daughter whose lives are torn apart when an evil supernatural entity takes over their home and enslaves Quinn’s body. During an interview with me last week, Dermot and Stephanie talked about what drew them to the horror genre and what makes stories about possession so scary. We also talked about the new fad that is Charlie, Charlie Challenge and working with the Godmother of Horror, Lin Shaye.

Dermot, you’ve starred in films with dark themes before, but nothing like a horror film like “Insidious: Chapter 3.” What led you to this genre?

Dermot Mulroney: To be honest with you, I think we’ve all watched horror movies become more and more popular. They’ve come closer to the mainstream. For me, I was watching everyone else have fun out there doing horror movies, so I figured it was high time for me to jump in. I had the good luck of hooking up with [director] Leigh Whannell and this awesome series of “Insidious” movies. I was thrilled. I mean, I was late to the party, but really happy to get there.

What about you Stephanie? You were known in the past for your role on the Disney Channel show “A.N.T. Farm.” Was it important for you to break out and show audiences you could do something darker?

Stephanie Scott: I definitely think it was a different part of my life when I was on the Disney show. For me that was in high school. Now I’ve graduated and want to be free and experiment. It was really exciting to go to a dark place and play a fun, twisted character. I had so much fun on this film. I was really lucky I got this role. It’s a really great character. [Quinn] is a completely different person by the end of the movie than she is in the first scene. For me, I’m really grateful that I got to do that.

DM: You know, I had worked to with [producer] Jason Blum who runs Blumhouse [Productions] on a movie called “Griffin & Phoenix” – a very low-budget, heartfelt romantic comedy – a few years ago. And then I saw his horror business taking off. When he called me, I was really thrilled to be working with a great producer and join this genre with him.

When it comes to horror movies about demons, there are some moviegoers who enjoy horror films that would never see a movie like this because they don’t want to mess with anything associated with possession. Do you think films about possession are inherently scarier than your average monster movie?

DM: That’s a really interesting question because what I’ve learned coming into this movie is that there are different branches of the [horror] genre and different preferences. Because there have been so many choices in the horror genre, people get to pick what they like the most. I definitely like films like this the most. The “Insidious” movies may have their own unique kind of impact because they’re not relying on blood and stunts and special effects and makeup, at least not to the extent that slasher movies are. I think it feels realer even though what’s scaring you is this obsessive demon. Something like that is a lot different than a slavering, lunatic ax murderer.

What do you think about this new game that is trending with kids this month called Charlie, Charlie Challenge? Is that something you would’ve tried when you were younger?

DM: I haven’t heard of it, but now I’m interested. What is it? Tell us briefly.

Well, basically it’s this game kids are playing where they can apparently summon a demon with a piece of paper and two pencils?

DM: It’s not a bad idea for a horror movie. (Laughs)

SS: For me, I don’t really mess with that stuff. I think it’s too risky. Ouija boards kind of freak me out a little bit. I never really got into that.

DM: Me neither. But I have to admit, now that I know this game is taking over, I’m kind of curious about it.

SS: (Laughs) Yeah, I feel that one is probably safer to do that an Ouija board.

DM: If you hear something went horribly wrong with Dermot Mulroney and this Charlie thing, that’s going to be on you, pal!

Dermot, you were actually born on Halloween. Did being born on a holiday associated with ghouls and monsters affect your childhood in any way?

DM: (Laughs) I do recall being really interested in monster makeup, but more in a hobby kind of way. Kids would buy those little kits and try to turn their brother into the Wolfman. Being born on Halloween definitely becomes a lifelong theme. It was great growing up. It was a great reason for a party. It’s funny now because my kids just think it’s awesome that their dad was born on Halloween. Two incredible holidays on the same day! It’s really exciting for them. They’ll go to school and say, “You know what! It’s not just Halloween. It’s also my dad’s birthday!”

SS: Aww!

DM: Yeah, I have a little one who is in the first grade. When she was in kindergarten she basically announced it to the whole class. I have to admit, the other five year olds were pretty impressed.

I got a chance to interview Lin Shaye back in 2013 for “Insidious: Chapter 2.” Since she was in the first two movies, what does she bring to this third installment?

DM: Ah, the Godmother of Horror! She was definitely our inspiration every day she came to work. She was as excited as the person I’m sitting next to, even though their ages are very different.

SS: We bonded over the excitement. I feel like we had a really cool connection.

DM: For me, you definitely see that in the movie. It’s a great formula in the movie where both their characters need each other. I don’t know of another horror movie where you really see two females from different generations paring up like that in order to confront this demon. Lin is the finest of actresses. She loves her work. She really brought energy to the set.

The Grey

February 3, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Liam Neeson, Dallas Roberts, Frank Grillo
Directed by: Joe Carnahan  (“The A-Team”)
Written by: Joe Carnahan (“The A-Team”) and Ian Mackenzie Jeffers (“Death Sentence”)

What is man’s most primal fear? Losing everything he loves? Dying alone? The unknown? These are only a few of the themes explored in “The Grey,” a surprisingly thoughtful character-driven thriller with a lot more to say than most man vs. Mother Nature survival stories. Imagine if all films that fell under this category were as emotionally rich as, say, “Cast Away,” “127 Hours,” “Into the Wild,” or “Jeremiah Johnson.” It might be easier to examine a lone man fighting for life than to tackle the complexities of a group under siege, but “The Grey” gets about as close as any mainstream movie has in recent years with its study of a team of oil drillers.

Director/writer Joe Carnahan, who broke into the scene in 2002 with the gritty, well-executed cop drama “Narc” before dropping two cinematic bombs (“Smokin’ Aces,” “The A-Team”), was motivated by the fear of being known for those last two mind-numbing contributions. “I started getting concerned that I was being viewed … as this schmucky action director that doesn’t really have anything meaningful to say,” Carnahan admitted during an interview with NPR last week. With “The Grey,” Carnahan, who is currently linked to a “Death Wish” remake and a crime drama centered on Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, doesn’t have to worry anymore. “The Grey” has substance without getting too preachy or philosophical.

Led by John Ottway (Liam Neeson in another alpha-male role), a team of suddenly planeless oil drillers must fend off a vicious pack of grey wolves stalking them from the darkness of the snow-covered wilderness. Walk into “The Grey” hoping to see a wolf get dropkicked in the snout or a stockpile of wolf-eaten bodies and be prepared for disappointment. This isn’t about man-on-wolf combat as much as it is about confronting one’s own mortality. It may have felt insincere had it been anyone else screaming to God to show him a sign He exists, but with Neeson digging as deep as he does it all rings unexpectedly true.

Flash of Genius

October 4, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Greg Kinnear, Lauren Graham, Dermot Mulroney
Directed by: Marc Abraham (debut)
Written by: Philip Railsback (“The Stars Fell on Henrietta”)

While true-story underdog films are usually reserved for athletes in the sports world, it’s always nice to see other industries get some attention and find a way to stick it to the man.

That’s exactly what Dr. Bob Kerns (Greg Kinnear) tries to do to the Ford Motor Co. in Detroit back in the 1960 when he sued them for patent infringement. As a college professor of electrical engineering and aspiring inventor, Bob did what no Ford-employee could do and perfect the intermitted windshield wiper for the automobile.

With dreams to sell it to the big auto companies and manufacture it himself, Bob is furiously undercut by Ford executives who steal his invention and call it their own. Although he is advised to bite the bullet and put the offense behind him, Bob can’t get passed the thought of how close he was to making a real contribution to the world. His depression and paranoia soon get the better of him as he decides to ignore all the advice given to him and sue Ford.

Obsessed with the case, Bob feels cheated and won’t let anything stop him from getting the credit he feels he deserves. As his life begins to crumble from the ground up, Bob sticks to his timeless plan even as it destroys his marriage and family.

As a straight-forward biopic, “Flash of Genius” is formulaic in its delivery but captures the daunting emotional tug-o-war Bob is experiencing in every aspect of his life. Kinnear suits the character well and gives a fine performances especially when Bob it at his most compulsive.

Because the Kerns case took so long to go to court, the film jumps to the most significant years of Bob’s battle with Ford. It’s a waiting game for audiences, too, but Kinner manages to hold our interest. His work is exceptionally poignant when we finally get into the courtroom and watch Bob lay everything on the line in hope that justice will prevail.

“Flash of Genius” is an appealing story about an event in the auto industry’s history that has never been put on film before. Ironically, the film works on the same level as a working intermitted windshield wiper. Its movements might be predictable, but the pacing is consistent and gets the job done solidly.