Anyway, what of Insidious, the forthcoming ghost flick from Saw creators James Wan and Leigh Whannell? Consensus seems to give it several thumbs up; while I think it's the best thing they've done since Saw, I give it 3/4 of a thumbs-up. Or, I should say, a thumb 3/4 of the way up, for I have a regular-sized thumb.
Wow, verdict out of the way early, so unlike me! However, I'm feeling succinct today. In fact, I'm feeling scatterbrained and bullet point today.
- You'll like this movie. It starts out very strong, sort of a Paranormal Activity (you know, creepy stuff around the house...but it's not the house that's haunted, it's the boy!) with a plot. This is no surprise, as Paranormal Activity's mastermind Oren Peli is a producer on Insidious.
- I'm very firmly entrenched in Camp Rose Byrne Can Do No Wrong, and so the fact that the two-thirds of the film belong to her and her character Renai, I was quite happy. In fact, early it seemed that Insidious would address a theme that's a bit Yellow Wallpaper-esque- that marriage and motherhood can sometimes not jive with a lady. As is virtually always the case, however, this was never taken up wholly. Maybe it was never an intent of the filmmakers, who knows...but I think it's there, just a little kernel of something interesting. However, for the last third of the film, the focus shifts to Renai's dullard of a husband Josh (Patrick Wilson) and it becomes his story. Renai does little from that point on besides cry, and it's a letdown.
- Between this movie and Wan's & Whannell's previous effort Dead Silence, it's evident that the duo find old ladies to be entirely terrifying, just by the virtue of their existence. Surely poor old Miss Havisham haunts both of their dreams.
- When Insidious becomes Josh's story, it also becomes a love letter to Poltergeist, complete with a wacky ghostbusting squad and Lin Shaye as a Tangina/Dr. Lesh hybrid. This is not unwelcome, particularly the Lin Shaye-ness of it. Maybe it's just me, but I love seeing her in a major role in the multiplex.
- Early on, there's no denying that Insidious is fucking creepy. It is, in fact, a "good old-fashioned" haunted house movie replete with phantom footsteps, creaky doors that open of their own volition, the whole nine yards. There are also some of the best jump scares I've ever had the pleasure of jumping out of my seat to.
- Later on, there's no denying that Insidious gets far less creepy. It never degenerates into an overblown CGI mess, but the filmmakers make some really bad choices and show far too much that's on the "hey, that's corny" side of scary. If I'm told a place is akin to Hell, full of tortured souls suffering in eternal torment and you decide to show this place, don't make that place a house filled with ghosts who stand there and give "creepy" smiles. If you've spent an hour establishing that a demon is horrifying, don't subsequently show him in his lair, surrounded by bouncing marionettes (we get it guys, you did Saw and Dead Silence) and sharpening his claws on a modified old timey sewing machine as "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" plays.