Midnight Madness 2010 day 6: Insidious (2010)

James Wan, director of Saw showed off his new film Insidious last night at Midnight Madness. Prior to the screening the director himself claimed the film was a throwback to The Shining and Poltergeist and would deliver "no fake scares" too bad he forgot to mention the film would also be light on delivering real scares.

The film starts off as a haunted house story. We follow a family moving into a big old house and weird things start to happen. As soon as this concept starts to settle in the inevitable stereotypical couple fight about the house begins wherein the wife moans about feeling unsafe and the husband pats her on the head like a dimwit and tells her it's just in her head. However in Insidious the husband instead feels sympathy for his wife and decides to move.... ok.... so maybe this isn't a haunted house film.

When their son slips into some sort of coma that defies medical science they call on some goofy paranormal professionals to figure out what's going on. It's explained that their son has slipped into "the further". Oh god! Not the further, anything but that! What is the further? I don't know and quite frankly, I don't want to know.

When the film first mentions this concept of "the further" - some distant realm you reach by pushing astral projection too far-  your imagination makes up what the place might be like. Something horrifying beyond human comprehension was what i was thinking. I was also thinking it was too bad this film didn't have the budget or the chops to show this place off. Well, didn't I eat crow as ten minutes later the husband is floating around "the further" which to my surprise looks the same as everything around you only in blue tint.

The saving graces of the film are the strong performances from the two leads, especially Rose Byrne. The strong soundtrack by Joseph Bishara is a classic example a terrific horror score, too bad it wasn't in a better movie.

Insidious is a film with an identity crisis. It doesn't know what it wants to be and while they are sequences of great promise, the whole ordeal feels uneven. This one's a renter (from us, of course).


Fear is one funny motherfucker.  What scares one person might make another laugh, and for every person up late at night with the lights on, there is another soundly dreaming.  If you go by Twitter, last night's screening of James Wan and Leigh Wannell's Insidious was PURE. FEAR.  If you go by me, it was anything but.

Wan (director) and Wannell (writer) shot to notoriety with their very decent microbudgeted debut feature Saw, which launched a horrible franchise.  Next up for the duo was the troublesome but ultimately underrated Dead Silence, which provided a decent handful of good scares along with a menacing atmosphere.  Wan went it alone (well, sort of - he had help from Death Wish author Brian Garfield for the source material) for his next effort, the minor cinematic achievement Death Sentence.  While that film lacked the emotional heft of the Bronson original, it was a competent product that deserves to be seen, if only for the masterful nearly two and a half minute single take in the multilevel parking lot and for John Goodman's scene-mastication.  Now Wan and Wannell have rejoined forces for haunted house chiller Insidious, which perhaps would have prepared me better had it been titled Insipidness.

Both gents brashly boasted before the screening that it was a real throwback to old school horror (hmmm, I'm starting to see a theme here), and cited works such as Poltergeist, The Exorcist, and The Shining as key touchstones and influences on their new film.  Bull. Shit. Bullshit.  The main difference between the new film and those now established classics of the genre is that they were SCARY, and this is not.  I mean, yes, there were a few SCARES, but the film WASN'T SCARY.  Big difference.

The movie starts out promisingly enough, and I was digging the pacing and the slow build, and then, everything gets dumped on its head (and not in a good way), conventions are tossed by the wayside (and not in a good way), and the plot takes two or three completely unseen left turns (AND. NOT. IN. A. GOOD. WAY).

Copping badly from Lucio Fulci's The Beyond and from the aforementioned screamers, and with a Demon that was less frightening that the one in the faux-religious tv adverts in James Gunn's Super, Insipidness is a mess of a film.  Quite frustrating, really, given the promise of a haunted house film from two of the genre's bright stars.  I so, SO wanted to love this one (the premise and the leaked stills from the flick are right up my alley), but I just couldn't force myself to.  I said that there were some scares, and yes, there were, and some genuinely creepy moments, but they were too fleeting, and were all but enveloped by the seething mass of cheese that was the film's second half, in which:

After a boy falls into a coma, some sort of psychic is brought in and informs his parents that their son is some kind of child prodigy and can astral-project.  The child's parents (the Yogi Bearers) are in disbelief, but after the psychic conducts a gas mask-clad seance, and some fucked up "otherworldy" events happen, they start to believe.  Then the father (Patrick Wilson) learns from his mother that as a boy HE TOO WAS ADEPT AT ASTRAL PROJECTION! GASP!  And the only way to get the son back into his corporeal form - and to stop these pesky demons from trying to inhabit his son's otherwise uninhabited husk of a self - the father must astral project once more in order to pull the son out of the shadowy netherworld known as "The Further".  But, but...if it's so "further", why does it resemble the house in which they live, and why does the main demon's lair look like it is a set from Pee-Wee's Playhouse decked out in accoutrements from Martha Stewart Living's Halloween Issue?

At this point I had lost all interest in the film, and my mind kept wandering to the impending long bike ride from the Ryerson back to Parkdale, and I simply wished to get home ASAP so I could crawl in bed and go right to sleep.  But again, if Twitter's anything to go by, Insipidness kept a lot of people up last night.  Like I says, fear's a funny thing.  So far, the three "horror" films that have screened have been the weakest of the lot; a bad sign for the future of the genre, or simply programming conflicts?  After all, A Horrible Way to Die, Cold Fish, or Miike's new film would have slotted in nicely.  But I guess you can't please everybody, all of the time...

-the coelacanth


Anonymous said...

Huh. I guess you better tell all of the people who adored INSIDIOUS (and gave it a gleeful standing ovation) that they're morons.

the coelacanth said...

i thought i just did?

the coelacanth said...

at a previous TIFF, dean cain received a standing ovation from critics for his "contribution to film". just sayin'...

Dropkick said...

I don't recall the standing O. was that up on the balcony?

La Sporgenza said...

WTF man? Abby Normal seems to have a serious hate on for your MM reviews Coleslaw. Abby... It's a film review, a subjective and selective interpretation of the movie's merits from one person's viewpoint, not a personal attack on those who felt otherwise.

For the love of Pete.... grow up. If you're going to make a case for the film's merits... DO SO!

Anonymous said...

No, there was no standing ovation on the balcony, that were i was. Maybe James Wan's parents gave him the standing ovation.

I see you two like the film more then me. Almost a shot for shot remake of POLTERGEIST except the Dad goes onto the astral plane to get his son back and ends up getting into pushing fights with some ghosts. Nothing could top that scene on the astral plane where he pushes that ghost really hard against a wall and the ghost gets knocked and falls in a stupor to the floor. NOTHING CAN BEAT THAT FOR SHEER STUPIDITY!!

the coelacanth said...

thanks - nice to hear a similar dissenting voice and see kris and i aren't out of our minds. seems like everyone else is in love with the film, but it really didn't do anything for me. yeah, i laughed out loud at that ghost-push, so ridiculous.

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