Sunday, January 15, 2012

Insidious - Peaks and Valleys of Horror

For the lack of scary movies as of late (at least in theatre), I was sadly disappointed when I missed Insidious in the cinema. It received pretty good reviews and I've been desiring something scary. Luckily, I didn't have to wait long and this fun horror flick is now on video.

Insidious, directed by James Wan, is a horror film with ghosts and possessions. Although the original Splat Pack director didn't have the same bloody disgusting shocks of Saw, Insidious packs a punch with disturbing imagery. The story follows Josh and Renai Lambert (played by Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne) who move into a new house. Soon after, their son Dalton (played by Ty Simpkins) puzzlingly falls into a coma. After months of Dalton lying comatose in his bed, Renai experiences strange whispers on the baby monitor, mysterious shadows in the bedroom, and bloody claw marks on Dalton's legs. Convinced the house is haunted, the family packs up and leaves, however, these spooky experiences continue to happen in their new house. After hiring a team of supernatural experts, they discover it's not the house sheltering spirits, but Dalton's body!

In terms of a scary movie, Insidious is like journeying through a mountain terrain: It starts off real strong, kind of gets silly, has a spike of scariness, slopes down into the silliness again, but recovers to level ground. Here's my breakdown with a visual map through the excitement of the film:

I. Strong Start: After shown the eerie face of a scary woman, the movie opens with ear-piercing strings and a title card reminiscent of Suspiria and Drag Me to Hell. With little explanation, the audience becomes sympathetic of the family since harm is being brought upon a little boy. As the audience stays on the edge of their seat while surviving the events of the first house, like the family residing in it, we can't wait to get out.

II. A Quiet Break: After the family moves into their new house, we get some time to relax. There are still hauntings, however they transformed from scary to comedic. Don't get me wrong, ghost children are creepy, but when we see a little lost spirit dancing to Tip Toe Thru' The Tulips With Me by Tiny Tim, you can't help but crack a smile.

III. The Mount Everest of Scare: What seems like a quiet conversation with Josh's mother (played by Barbara Hershey, who also plays a disturbing role in Black Swan), the grandest scare happens during this scene. Without any warning or musical cue, a horrific demon face pops up behind Josh's head. The face may resemble Darth Maul, but it definitely causes you to jump up from your seat.

IV. Back down in the Valley: After the Lambert family hires the paranormal investigation team, we get one more moment of rest before we climb the mountain of terror. The "TAPS team" has quirky characters, guys you would expect to be working at the Buy More from Chuck. The team is armed with gizmos and gadgets on par with the Ghost Busters. This segment also brings some heart-felt moments that gives the audience a chance to breathe. The talk and interplay between characters is a throwback to Poltergeist, where the family reflects and prepares for their son's rescue mission.

V. The Final Climb to Terror: As Patrick enters the world of the dead, the frame rate is very quick and jerky, creating an uncomfortableness in the same vain of how Wan does it in Saw. Patrick meets chilling characters that would burn recognition into your nightmares. When Patrick and Dalton are escaping from "Darth Maul," terror is provoked through a suspenseful chase sequence. Insidious may conclude with a predictable ending to most fans of horror, but if the twist wasn't there, we wouldn't be pleased at all.

So I admit, my mountain expedition analogy through Insidious is pretty stupid, but it's very true! There are lots of elements of horror, but there were moments where I felt the story slowed down quite a bit. In my first viewing of the film, I needed those quiet moments to keep my blood pressure in check. But upon my second viewing, those very same seconds of silence lost my interest and I found myself surfing Safari on my iPhone. However, I must say this is a pretty good haunted house film and I hope James Wan does some more horror films in the future.

So on Death List Five, Insidious ranks #4.

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