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!”
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.