Insidious

From: July 25, 2011

This is a good take on the type of horror film one would have seen in the early 80’s. It’s sort of like a mixture between Poltergeist and House [the first house, of course, not any of the sequels]. What really made Insidious successful, in my opinion, was that the use of CGI effects was kept to a minimum until about the last ten minutes of this very well paced movie. Additionally, there was a serious lack of gag scares, which really cheapen a lot of films of this type. Over the years directors have, for some reason, decided that the scariest part of paranormal stories occur when a critter of some sort jumps out and screams at the viewer. Instead, this film uses the viewer’s mind against him; playing up familiar settings. It gives the home a dark twist which makes you feel uncomfortable when you’re watching in your own home. Every viewer’s living room is suddenly host to a black figure doing a shimmy to “tiptoe through the tulips.”

The UK poster. Much prettier than any of the US versions.

The UK poster. Much prettier than any of the US versions.

I really appreciated that it did seem like the directors did the proper research. There were a lot of details that really lined up with the study of demonology, particularly the studies involving Ed and Lorraine Warren, which are the ones that I’ve read the most about. There were a lot of important, small details present in the film. For example, they play on the concept that whenever a demon comes to someone’s home it will almost always present itself by knocking three times. Additionally, the idea that an individual is being haunted rather than the house, is present here, which is also true to the field of study. It was nice to see authentic writing and research used in the film. I also enjoyed the explanation for the attempted possession, but I won’t spoil that for you. I find it interesting that so often in horror films directors build concepts off of what they feel the general public will find frightening, while the ideas/images that the general public associate with fear come from movies they’ve seen, stories they’ve read, and urban legends that have been passed down over the years. So what we’re left with are really stale, generalized stories that get recycled simply because audiences keep paying to see them. For those of us who are desensitized viewers to boot, this become especially tiring! So, instead of having a great idea, directors often have an idea that’s already kind of tired. I suppose what I’m saying is the thing that works best about Insidious is that it’s based on supposedly real, paranormal research, rather than the fictional garbage we’ve seen a dozen times; an especially good thing for Wan since he is working in an over-saturated genre that has garnered low expectations.

As far as the acting and effects go, it’s all very standard. You’ll get to see a lot of classic early 80’s style panorama shots, and absolutely no jerky cam, which is wonderful. The directors did do a great job of utilizing shadow and silhouette in lieu of showing off flashing screaming, transparent hell critters. (I blame 13 Ghosts for this phenomenon. Not every paranormal thingie needs have a diaphanous, yet decayed 8mm quality). Additionally the actors were nothing to write home about, but at the same time they never did anything that was overtly obnoxious or transparent. At least Patrick Wilson is sort of handsome. There’s nothing flashy going on in this movie, which is a big part of what makes it work. The actors come off as boring people who could just be your neighbors. They do not fall into the genre stereotypes of being a divorced couple, or a family whose grandma was a gypsy. The only real downfall of the film is its ending. Again, I don’t want to spoil it for potential viewers, but I will say that I feel the last few minutes of the film execute the worst effects of the production particularly in the scene that reveals the face of the demon, who really looks more like a sith lord than the spawn of evil. Additionally, you will need to expect to sit through a few minutes of conclusion that are likely to make you proclaim “Seriously?!”. The ending…it’s just not super inventive.

So, if you like horror movies, particularly if you’re like me and love paranormal topics in film, this is a sure thing for you. You may be suspicious of Insidious based on the fact that this film comes from the same directors of the atrocious Saw series, but apparently these guys (James Wan, Leigh Wannell), are actually not huge fans of Saw themselves, and have admitted to feeling that this is the film they always truly wanted to make. Surely that attests to something, so don’t let that connection sway you from giving Insidious a try, and forgive it for its final moments.

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