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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Insidious: More Like In-shitty-ous

insidious

I knew nothing of James Wan's Insidious up until I started to actually see trailers for it on television. I can't say that it completely grabbed my attention right away, but I did wonder what this film was that flew so stealthily under my radar up until that point. It looked as if it could be promising, but I paid little attention until mostly positive reviews started to roll in from fellow bloggers and other such reviewers. That, and how the film had a strong and long stay at the box office, making it one of the most profitable films of the year (and in comparison to its budget, a relative success) certainly got me very interested in seeing what was being described as a solid, spooky haunted house tale.

When the DVD saw release this passed Tuesday, I was pumped to finally have the chance to catch the biggest horror movie of the year, thus far, and I even made it my GBtMC DVD pick of the week. Sweet, right? Well, maybe not so much.  

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This has been a big film for people within the horror community, so I would assume that most of you that haven't already seen it have a good idea what it's about. However, this review is better suited for those that have indeed seen Insidious; with that being the case, I'd rather not waste keystrokes on a plot and just get right into the shit.

Right off the bat I was a little concerned about the film's dialogue and some sketchy performances, specifically that of Dalton as played by Ty Simpkins. The kid sucked, plain and simple, and that is always a bad thing with any movie that has a child as its focus. Luckily, that bad performance goes into a coma, so I didn't have to deal with him too much after the first twenty some odd minutes. However, Leigh Whannell's weak and hokey sounding dialogue rears its ugly head enough times to cause multiple groans from this one man audience, and I couldn't help but feel sympathy for the actors that had to deliver some of these lines. And unlike Dalton, the dialogue never goes into any sort of coma, no matter how hard I wished it would.

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Now, before I move onto my other problems, now would be a great time to praise the film for what it does right, though, this will certainly work as a great segue into other issues I have. One thing that many had claimed about Insidious is that it is a genuinely creepy haunted house film, and that is, in fact, where it does work best. Wan uses a great mixture of music (at first) and film to disorient the audience effectively in a few early, key scenes, and this was a nice and welcome surprise coming from the man that directed Saw. Unfortunately, this leads into one of my biggest issues with Wan's direction in Insidious, and that is his lack of restraint.

Wan has no clue how to pull his punches, and there are some standout and very terrifying moments in Insidious that are slightly tarnished by taking the viewer one-step too far and into a place that's basically silly. For instance, there are two (of the film's better) scenes in particular where a little too much is shown "spirit" wise. One of the scenes is when Renai (Rose Byrne) is seeing someone walking back and forth outside of her window at an alarming rate. The person is going faster and faster when suddenly they appear inside of the house, which is a shit worthy moment until a second later when the apparition is revealed to be this weird, longhaired European guy who growls and attacks Renai before disappearing. Guess what? Leather jacket clad European dudes aren't scary unless you're bombed and at a club in Prague or in a Hostel film. 

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The other scene also involves Renai (who spells their name like that? And please don't say your mom. in that case, I'm kidding), and this is when she is in the new house alone, and that little creepy dude drops a beat and starts dancing like the dancing queen he was always meant to be. Now, this moment is a bit out there, but it was still pretty chilling in its oddness. However…Wan WANce again (ha!) goes too far when he has Renai look into a cabinet, only to have the little guy pop out and run away while giggling, and it's at this point that the tension of the scene is lost and I began to smile in disbelief. 

Things don't get much better when it comes to the main villain (?) of Insidious, the fire creature that haunts Dalton in the further (yeah, we'll get to the further soon enough). I actually thought the Darth Maul-esque monster was somewhat cool looking at first, but that was until I got a good look at his forked tongue and stomping hooved feet in the film's horrible climax. By this point, all I could think was really?

Everything about Insidious simply piles on waaay more than the audience needs to see, and far more than what is necessary to make a successful scary film. Too much is shown and way too much is explained, and it's all done with a drop of shitty dialogue mixed in for good measure. 

Key moment of bad dialogue meets way too much explanation: "I call it the further" Really. You call it the further, huh? Hey, since you gave it a name, why don't you go ahead and explain it to us? Oh, you will? I was kidding. Damn. 

insidious3Now, was any of that necessary? I mean, even if you blew your load over Insidious, can you really find any reason as to why any of that needed to be explained, let alone giving it a name such as the further?! I need to understand WHY!! In addition, it should be said that those whacky ghost hunters were a great way to break up the horror. When they showed up on screen, it really felt as if I was suddenly watching a scene from The Happening, and we all know how awesome that movie was.

I have one last order of business to attend to before I finish up here, and this is exactly where both Whannell's bad dialogue and the Wan's lack of restraint come together to fully fill up the toilet bowl in a way that only they, as a team, can. This is a small moment, but in many ways, this moment perfectly sums up the ridiculousness of Insidious for me.

*SPOLIERS*

There is one key moment of awfulness involving Josh (Patrick Wilson) and that European longhaired guy as they are fighting to the death (or whatever) in THE FURTHER! Josh, being afraid and in THE FURTHER, is getting his ass kicked, however, thanks to some coaching and inspiration that explains to him that he is strong enough to beat the European dude, he summons the power of Gayskull and effeminately pushes the European guy away while yelping: "Get away from me!" I could not believe my eyes and ears. This moment was so laughable I thought I lived in an alternate universe where bad was good, up was down and my farts smelled nice. It has the same impact as one of those rape protection self defense videos that teach women to protect themselves by fighting back using assertive verbal skills as they punch their trainer in the cock.

           

And yet, this chick has way more balls than Josh does

I could go on and on and on and on about how troubled Insidious is. From the horrendous final act to the even worse ending, Insidious had so much potential to be a great, frightening horror film, but instead it turns out to be a yet another disappointment from the guys that have led me down this path more than once before. Despite showing some incredible diversity in style (the film looks quite incredible overall) and being able to genuinely create some truly eerie moments, team Wan and Whannell have once again duped me into believing they might have made a great horror movie. However, maybe it's not so much their fault as it seems as if many fans really enjoyed this film. Maybe it's me; maybe I'm the one that's wrong here…

Nah. 

 

(You can rent Insidious as well as over 70,000 other titles at www.lovefilm.com)

33 comments:

  1. Good stuff. I think you hit on my biggest concern with the movie too, everything is so damn literal and explained and reinforced to the max. I HATE HATE HATE the way the "spirits" are presented. For example, there's the scene where bearded nerd sees the two women in the hallway and they go from normal to creepy smile in a blink. It's like Wan couldn't let the moment unfold and have them slowly smile in a creepy manner, he wanted it in fragments. EVERYTHING in the movie is like that. Nothing builds (except for that one cool scene in the further with everyone closing in on them like NOTLD), everything is a jumpscare reveal.

    An yeah, the demon of the sax player from The Lost Boys that comes through the window was awesome...but it went straight south.

    Bottom line for me is that Wan doesn't seem to know what horror is. I know that's harsh to say about a dude who's made like billions of dollars worth of horror, but he thinks everything should be a surprise, and thus everything he does is superficial.

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  2. HA HA! The sax player from The Lost Boys!

    A lot of people have said that the first half of Insidious is like watching Paranormal Activity, while the second half is like watching Saw.

    In my opinion, the first half is like watching an unrestrained Paranormal Activity, with the second half being very similar to the early Dark Castle films like the remakes of House on Haunted Hill and Thir13en Ghosts. Or at least that's how the spirits and the way in which they're presented come off at least (like the ones you mention). And to be honest, those films in a way where kind of fun (no less than Insidious), but that was like ten years ago, and to pull shit like that now just doesn't work.

    I think Wan has talent in him, but he needs to team up with someone that understands how to hold back a little, or at least figure out how to do it himself. I can't comprehend him and Whannell sitting back and saying, "Yeah, and he can wear a leather jacket and have this kind of long, menacing hair. It's gonna be so scurry!"

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  3. I think it's hard to pull off a ghost movie these days that isn't a complete rip-off, or at least unintentional clone, of the several gazillion movies that have already been made on the subject. That said, I like ghost movies that at least bring a sort of unique style to complement them, and I thought INSIDIOUS did a good job of that with some memorable sequences and standout ghoulie-moments. Because it's a movie and I know this going in, I didn't feel like it needed to build any so-called "credibility", like maybe something like PARANORMAL ACTIVITY would have. PA wanted you to believe it was real so that sort of expectation had to be set. I regard INSIDIOUS as more of a carnival ride through a haunted house; I know even in advance that the creatures and spookies that jump out at me are gonna be total bullshit, but that doesn't make it any less fun for me. And I was a big fan of 1999's HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL, so yeah, the similar vibes that I got from INSIDIOUS helped me appreciate it all the more. Plus, I also choose to look at this from more of a childish point of view, trying my damnedest to view through fresh eyes and giving the benefit of the doubt and assuming that not everyone is as jaded as I (or you) when it comes to "been there, seen that" on horror films. Of COURSE it's gonna be harder to please a desensitized individual who's very blog title involves Chuck Norris eating babies. You were just too much man for this movie, is all. ;)

    So INSIDIOUS was not everyone's cup of tea, I guess. More for me, that way. But c'mon, man, admit it - if you were chasing a fuckin' ghost kid through your house and it suddenly jumped out of a cabinet at your ass, you wouldn't even be a little freaked out? Haha. ;P

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  4. It's funny that you say you tried to watch Insidious from a child like point of view. Almost immediately after it was over, I expressed my distaste for it but immediately followed up by saying that I would have loved the shit out of it when I was young.

    I did get the sort of carnival ride feeling from it, which is something that I aesthetically love, but it felt a little lost in this film. However, maybe because I didn't expect that is why it felt out of place to me. I see the movie as being this and that and this, but neither this or that mix well together, or maybe Wan didn't mix them well enough? It seemed as if he threw a bunch of shit at the wall and whatever stuck.

    As much as I wasn't down with the film, I really wanted to like it, and I still feel like I have to give it another shot down the road. Will I ever think it's good? Probably not, but I hated House of 1,000 Corpses, and I mean HATED House of 1,000 Corpses when I saw it, but I now own and enjoy it in a way, while hating it in another. It's odd, and I see Insidious as possibly being that type of film, or at least that's the gut reaction I had after seeing it. Actually, it kind of reminds me of House of 1,000 Corpses as a film in that it uses the idea of using everything and the kitchen sink to make a horror movie.

    Also, I do enjoy House on Haunted Hill quite a bit myself, and outside of the worst final shot (Chris Kattan saves the day) of all time, I think it's a completely fun, and marginally creepy little haunted house flick as well as a decent remake.

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  5. I really liked the first half of the film but it collapses in on itself when all the exposition starts. You're right about it showing too much but I do think some of the stuff is creepy shit. Even though the film falls apart I'll take this over any of the Saw movies!

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  6. so what you are saying is... is you didn't like it... in so many words.
    :)
    jeremy

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  7. The scene with the dude coming through the window made me piss myself, as did most of the first 2 acts, which were a lot more subtle than the final one. Dead Silence had this same problem. 2 acts worth of creepy and then it devolves into a shitty monster movie. Anyway, the creepy european guy at some point during the final act conjured images of the goth guy from The IT Crowd, which totally nuked his creepiness. From that point on, I kept waiting for him to ask if they liked Cradle of Filth.

    Just once, I want a horror movie with a creepy mom, doubting kids and a husband that sees it all but is believed by no one. That's never what we get, though.

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  8. Awww come on Matty, it wasn't that bad. Well for you it was, that's clear.

    I enjoyed this movie, becuase it put me in mind (especially the later part of it) of a William Castle-style epic. I mean all that was missing were theater seats hooked up to give the audience a jolt during key scenes!

    Maybe it's just me, but I appreciated the subtle start of the film, and then the way it just went right off the tracks into Gonzoville.

    Loved it, even though it was no "Manic Monday". ;)

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  9. Hero: Me too, as far as Saw goes. I find little to nothing about the Saw franchise to really enjoy. At least Insidious had a lot of strong moments and some genuine tension.

    iZombie: Ha, exactly!

    James: For sure, that scene with the guy (at the window) was great right up until that very final moment. I was able to overlook a lot of those minute issues that slightly hindered some of the first half of the film's scares, but the ending was just a cluster fuck of disappointment. And HA! to the Cradle of Filth comment!

    Pax: As I said in one of the other comments, it did sort of remind me of the William castle remakes from Dark Castle pictures, which I actually like despite their lack of originality. At best I could find that aspect fun, but to call a lot of that stuff actually scary is a little off base. Especially when there are some very creepy moments strewn throughout.

    And NOTHING is better than Manic Monday!

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  10. BACK OFF! What's up with that video, dude? In my opinion, you had this nice guy trying to have a friendly conversation with a lady who obviously has serious trust issues. Here he is, looking to buy his ma a nice birthday card and she has to get all uppity like she's too good to have dinner with him. Video shoulda been called "How To Stay Single. A Paranoid Loser's Guide"

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  11. Yeah, with an outfit like that, she shouldn't be too choosey. Sometimes you gotta take what you can get!

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  12. I scanned through your review, and skipped the spoiler cause I haven't seen it. I'm dissapointed that you didn't like it. I'm still looking forward to seeing it soon.
    -Jason

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  13. It's funny. I almost wrote a long review of this...but figured that someone would beat me to the punch and do it better. I'm glad you did, man. I think you hit the nail on the head. Another flaw: This movie starts off with a scare, instead of building to it gradually. Right before the title, even. All I could think was: "Is this the scariest stuff you got?" The script is lazy (insert domestic trauma here...done!). The one plus? This was my first Redbox rental...so it was only a buck.

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  14. Listening to Aaron and Sam discuss it on the ggtmc and I'm wondering how much of Insidious' backlash is from overhype. I saw it opening weekend on a date, didn't expect anything because I somehow hadn't heard ANYTHING about it, plus I wasn't paying, so by the end, I was incredibly impressed. I echo the chorus in saying that first hour is a masterpiece of suspense and mood, and while I hated the design of The Further, I liked the final beat of the ending. Maybe I'd be less impressed if I rented it for the first time last week, but I still maintain that for a theatrical PG13 rated horror original, it was something special. I'd rathe r see more filmmakers take notes from this film than cram out yet another young pretty people in peril piece.

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  15. Jason: I'm disappointed I didn't like it, too! Even after I watched it, I tried to tell myself that I at least thought it was decent, but it didn't work. You might have fun with it. Who knows, maybe knowing some of the film's issues before going in will make you view a little more enjoyable!

    Dusty: I honestly cannot even remember the start of the film now. I do remember that Wan has his name all over the place in the credits, which is odd since he really hasn't earned that status of box-office success yet.

    The screenwriting was very lazy, though I can overlook that sort of stuff if a movie is done well in other areas, though there really isn't much else to support a weak script with this one. The story is standard stuff that we've seen many times before, which can be fine as long as it's all handled efficiently, but unfortunately it's not. The character development is awful and the foreshadowing is painfully obvious.

    Emily: See, I think that Insidious' lack of originality (story and characters), bad dialogue and penchant for showing way too much is sort of bad for the genre in a way. It's great that they went with an actual cast of actors instead of some pretty people plugged in to fill up the screen. The same can be said for how crazy the film is idea wise. While I think the ideas are poorly executed and not all that original, it's nice to know that someone was able to make a movie and just go crazy with it.

    The film is definitely way overhyped (a 7 on IMDB?!), but I can't really say that that made much of a difference as far as my viewing goes. I think I am more or less surprised by the fact that people think it's as scary as it is. It does build some incredible tension (in two or three scenes), but it's all for not as almost every scene is hindered by something incredibly lame and corny tagged on at the end. I need to be left with that uneasy feeling after a tense scene, not a feeling of, "well, that moment could have ended way better!" Those little touches took me right out of the horror of it all.

    I can see going into the film with no expectations being a big help, though, I do think no expectations sets people up to enjoy a movie a little more than they possibly would have otherwise. Personally, I went in with some hype, but only a little. I more or less really wanted to see a great horror film, and I didn't feel as if that's what I got.

    Alas, who did you go on a date with?!

    1) Shivers the Clown from Fear of Clowns

    2) Costas Mandylor

    3) Jackson Galaxy

    ;)

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  16. I actually stood Shivers up for Patrick Wilson. Then Shivers killed Patrick Wilson (he was distracted when putting on his anti-wrinkle eye cream) and I was kind of annoyed at the situation so I let Costas buy me a ticket. I may have let him get to second base, but dude wouldn't even splurge on the popcorn. it was a bum evening all around.

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  17. You would think Costas would know that without popcorn, there's no popcorn trick for him to rely on. Rookie!

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  18. *gasps* I'm surprised you loathed this one so much, Matt! I loved it. From the screaming opening credits to the Fulci-esque ending in the dreamscape/admittedly ridiculously titled The Further; it had me on the edge of my seat. I think Wan got the mix of out-right shocks and creeping menace just right. I'm curious to check it out in the comfort of my own living-room to see if it still unsettles me, as the first time I saw it was in the cinema. Some of the imagery in it is amongst the creepiest I've seen in a horror film in long time. And that scene when the alarm goes off and Patrick Wilson finds the front door open... Iiiiieeeeee!!! ;)

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  19. Man, James, your fitting mention Fulci and have me all questioning my own thoughts on Insidious now! I don't know if I hated it so much as I thought it wasn't very good and mostly ridiculous. I tried to like it because there are things there to enjoy for a lot of reasons, but I found way too many issue to be thrilled about the film.

    I'm sure Insidious played brilliantly in theaters. There were some moments that translated well to the small screen, specifically the alarm going off scene, which was one of the best scenes in the movie.

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  20. ABsolutely Matt. The theater I saw was packed full with youngins, some of whom were smoking the funny cigarettes (seriously!) and even though they snickered here and there and ate nachos too loudly, they also got really quiet and jumpy and screamy during the scary bits. It seriously made the film for me.

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  21. Same here! I'm usually too militant when I go to the cinema - crunch your popcorn too loudly beside me at your own peril! etc - but I loved seeing Insidious with a packed house - there were screamy moments of course, and at other times you could have heard a pin drop in the theatre as people were so tensed up. Wonderful stuff!

    Hmmm. All this talk of Insidious makes me want to watch it again. I wonder if I'll like it as much second time round. Incidentally - I watched Giallo for the first time since seeing it at the Edinburgh film festival a couple of years ago. I LOVED it! It is actually a very decent thriller - if a little 'anonymous' for Argento. Anyway - I digress. Hope you're well, Matt! :)

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  22. I normally hate when people make any sort of noise or do anything that dares to bother me in the theaters, however, some films do play well with an audience. A prime example is Halloween Resurrection.

    Possibly, well, definitely the worst in the series, the lady and I saw it with a theater packed full of hooligans yelling at the screen. The movie sucked, but the white kid yelling shit like: "Yo, that's that Micheal Myers dawg!," and "Busta BUST!" when Busta Rhymes did his "trick or treat, mother fucker!" line. It was gold.

    So yeah, sometimes theater experiences can work positively for a film that isn't so great or even enhance said experiance, though, I will give Insidious this: it's much better than Halloween Resurrection!

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  23. All right, Matty.
    I'm here. I saw it. I (finally) read the review.
    You fucking nailed it.
    I REALLY didn't like this. And for all the reasons you expressed. Everything went a step TOO far. The suspense was broken NUMEROUS times. The dialogue was painful and trite. The characters were terrible. They were undeveloped and unlikable. Why did Wilson's character stay late at work? Why did Byrne IMMEDIATELY think the house was haunted and beg to move? Why did they even have 2 other kids? Why introduce things and not pay them off?
    It was a bloated, over-explained mess.
    A kid astral projects and demons want to take his body?! Awesome! I'm totally on board. It wasn't the idea that was weak, it was the execution.
    You summed it up perfectly for me.
    And James, I loved the Fulci fog!

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  24. Silly Christine, the two other children had VERY SPECIFIC reasons for being onscreen:

    1-the baby needed to be in danger, because babies in danger are effective
    2-the older son needed to be able to speak so that he could utter that one line about seeing the Furthered brother walking around in the middle of the night.

    I actually remember thinking about that during the movie, how there sure were a lot of those tiny plot points seemingly plopped in for quick dramatic effect. i do fear this film will suffer on a second viewing, but still, having no expecation, seeing it in a crowded theater, it was still a blast.

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  25. That's exactly why, Em.
    The baby was a baby because they needed creepy shit to happen with the baby monitor.
    And that's spot on with the older kid.
    Meh.

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  26. Yes, Emily does perfectly explain the purpose of the other children who simply disappear from the film without any second thought as to their wellbeing. There is a moment where their whereabouts are briefly mentioned, which is all that was needed to get rid of them as they no longer served the plot. They were replaced by those hysterical ghost hunter dudes! YES!

    As for Wilsons' character staying late at work, that did have an explanation, which was to show how he was afraid of confrontation. Instead of dealing with the problems that his family was facing, he would rather stay at work and not have to deal with it all. It all ties into him having to deal with something he has been avoiding his whole life, THE FURTHER! It's quite poetic.

    Seeing as I have seen a ton of good and bad films where a family, or a specific person, is being plagued by something horrifying, I was completely taken aback by how sudden and quick to move Renai was. Sometimes people overstay their welcome in such a situation, but this was a case of a decision that wasn't well thought out, if even thought out at all.

    Oh well, I'm not surprised you didn't enjoy this one, Christine. I was actually very surprised when you said you hated it at forty mins. in, knowing that was the best portion of the film and it would only go downhill from there. Despite the quality of the film, at least it spurs some good conversation!

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  27. I apparently didn't "get" the ONE subtle plot point re: Wilson's whereabouts...
    I'll begrudgingly admit defeat on that front.

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  28. I fiiiinally saw Insidious. I'm so late to the party. And right now I'm feeling so lame. But I must say, I see why people like/love and dislike/hate this film. I really do.

    Certain moments of suspense building were really underwhelming. Many scenes in "the further" really made no sense, but I guess attempting good measure considering 'the English teacher' gave us the rundown on all the goings on.

    And I think I'm the only one who found the Missionary-looking ghost hunters unfunny. They exchanged dialogue. I blinked.

    All in all, I didn't hate it. And I like the fact that you constructively pointed out the film's flaws.

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  29. I didn't hate it either, but something about the reaction it gets from some almost makes me want to, if that makes sense? I can understand liking anything (well, almost), as I like some real shit, but liking shit and being able to admit it's shit is one thing, as opposed to liking shit and being in denial that it's shit. What a shitty response this is!

    Glad you checked it out, though. I'm not surprised by you reaction as it basically mirrors mine. I actually might have to give it another watch again just to see how it plays out a second time. Maybe it's a little more fun when you know how flawed it is.

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