Eating my words
I really do try to recommend movies that are a little more “inside baseball” than most. Movies that have huge budgets, huge stars attached to them, and huge opening weekends as well as a huge impact on the popular culture…are typically useless to me. I’ll give them a review upon their release, but I mostly feel that recommending them well after that would constitute a mere drop in the ocean. Do you really need to hear me say that Inception is a great sci-fi heist movie? Are there truly people out there who will take notice if I advertise Casino Royale as a good Bond movie, or Iron Man as a successful superhero adaptation? No. I’m much more fond of bringing your attention to underdog movies that haven’t had a significant shout out. Now, I’m no Quentin Tarantino. I don’t know everything there is to know about $5 budget exploitation films from the 70’s. I’m a fairly mainstream cinema-goer myself, and my tastes are not as exotic and cultured as I’d wish them to be. Still, I try my best to tell you about films that you hopefully haven’t seen or heard of.
All that being said…I cannot deny when a movie just…works.
Sometimes a film can’t go unmentioned, regardless of how notorious it may already be. To this end, I absolutely have to recommend…
When I first saw the trailer to this movie I was extremely underwhelmed. The plot synopsis did nothing to impress me either.
“A family looks to prevent evil spirits from trapping their comatose child in a realm called The Further.”
James Wan and Leigh Whannell, creators of Saw and Dead Silence, decided that they wanted to make their next project a tribute to Poltergeist. Now that sounds great! I love Poltergeist, but the look of Poltergeist is very different from the look of Paranormal Activity; which the trailer for Insidious annoyingly resembled. The use of handheld shaky-cam and desaturated colour grading reminded me far too much of that weak attempt at a horror franchise. So, I skipped it. I told myself I would see it one day, but not today.
Not too long after that I started to see memes and internet posts like this all over the web:
Call me crazy, but I haven’t seen a lot of Paranormal Activity web cartoons – and there are now four Paranormal Activity movies and only one Insidious! So clearly something about this film resonated with a group of people out there, enough for them to bring it to the net with force. At this point I started to think there might be something to it…
One day I was talking to a girl at my university (Yeah, I talk to girls! I talk to girls all the time, I know loads of girls, girls love me!…Shut up!) and she highly recommended that I watch it. I, being my typical arrogant know-it-all cynical contrarian self, scoffed and shrugged my shoulders. “I didn’t like Dead Silence, and this one looks like a Paranormal Activity wannabe! Besides, I’ve heard it’s not scary!” I said. She shrunk slightly and quietly uttered “Well, I liked Dead Silence…and I liked Insidious…and I thought it was scary.” Fast forward a year and I have now seen Insidious…
I would like to lay myself flat and completely apologise to you Vanessa! I know you’re probably not reading this, but I’m so so sorry! I was wrong to the Nth degree! This movie is freakishly frightening!
Now, it doesn’t get a perfect score, because the story flusters and flails about like a chicken without its head. There are a number of different holes you can pick in the plot and the ending was frankly…unsatisfactory. Still, a horror movie lives and dies by the suspense and terror it’s able to impart – and I’d be lying through my teeth and eyes and ears if I tried to deny it’s success on that front.
Is Insidious a tribute to Poltergeist? You bet it is! There are many scenes that refer directly back to the Spielberg/Hooper masterpiece of the 80’s, so I’m delighted that modern audiences have recognised its appeal. Not only that, but it also taps into some of the greatest themes of classic horror; like the fear of shadows standing in corners and the creepiness of vintage fashion styles. This film shows that while a ghost with a frown may not exactly be inviting, a ghost with an “unnatural smile” is just…plain…wrong. There’s also an unending obsession with pedophobia; the fear of children. This is something which movies often try but fail to capture. Children are nice and cute and cuddly, right? Well, maybe not always…
I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to listen to Tiny Tim again. Not that I was a fan before but, oh well.
I know you’re sick of me talking about Halloween, but it’s very close so it’s not going to stop now. If you haven’t seen Insidious, maybe because you didn’t hear about it when it was released or you were just a pessimistic twat like me, this coming wednesday is the perfect opportunity to redeem yourself. I believe that, in the decades to come, Insidious will have its day. It will grow from a fairly overlooked film, to cult classic, into a must-see piece of horror film history. It is a far-from-perfect but, never-the-less, lovingly crafted modern horror trophy. It understands just where to grab you and how hard to squeeze.