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