Monday, April 11, 2011

Movies: Insidious

Thoughts on Film
Movie Review

Insidious teaches a lesson we’ve seen in countless ghost movies—there is a world beyond what we know, and it’s at-best, an unfriendly place. It’s a place where, if you must go, you drive through with your doors locked and your foot over the gas pedal.

The story centers around Renai (Rose Byrne), Josh (Patrick Wilson), and their three children. One day, their young son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) is hurt while climbing a ladder when a rung breaks. I want to take a moment and point out that mom broke that same rung herself the day before. Rather than fix it or chuck the ladder, she just leaves it there. Real smooth, mom. Maybe we can leave the Draino off the dessert menu? And a ten foot python would make for a great baby gift.

In fact, it seems that just about the denizens of this "other realm" either want to possess us, kill us in horrendous ways - or even both. Seriously, people, we need to get proactive here! For every Casper the Friendly Ghost, we’ve got about 100 Grudge-esque nightmare looking to pull our innards out through our noses.

Little Dalton is barely scratched, but that night he falls into a coma which doctors (not surprisingly) cannot begin to explain. Shortly thereafter the standard haunted house formula shifts into gear, as strange noises, ghosts and various other spectral phenomena stalk the family, going so far as to follow them to a new house. Now these are some dedicated ghosts! Most of the time these lazy bastards just wait for people to come to them, but these ghouls have some serious work ethic.

Insidious, premiered at the 2010 Toronto Film Festival, offers up some pretty scary scenes. The audience jumps. I suppose if you went back and gave this movie a good second look, a lot of these scares might seem pretty ridiculous. In some cases, Renai and Josh seem to be getting pranked as opposed to actually haunted, and that’s just the beginning. The antagonist in this film looks like a combination of Darth Maul, Freddy Kruger and a goat. I’m guessing the writers just threw darts at a photo array of film baddies to pick the villain’s look, then threw in some random attachments to make it look scarier. The only thing that scares me is how much money they wasted* on makeup and CGI for this thing. [*editor's note: the film is said to have come in overall around $1M and took in $13M in it's opening weekend. ]

The story takes a couple unusual twists and turns, such as the reveal that Josh and Dalton are astral projectors, a fact that neither of them seems even remotely aware of. You’d think that one of them might remember drifting across the ether of the spirit world, but no, it’s a shock to us all. And it seems these ghosts are attracted to those of us that can chuck their souls out into the void, but not in a “buy them flowers and serenade by moonlight.” It’s more of a “take over their bodies and go on homicidal rampages.” Remember what I said about us needing to flambé the spirit world?


The cast gives a decent performance, and the creepy ambiance only lets up here and there, keeping the audience nice and tense and ready to jump at the next pale figure behind a door or around a corner. As in most haunted house films, we get the standard burst of music whenever we see a dead person. I’m intrigued to see if these films are any scarier with the mute button on. In this case, it might be an improvement given the dialogue.

Overall, Insidious doesn’t give us much in the way of new chills but everyone in the crowd found it can be scary - and might be good for a single serving of fun escapist terror.

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