Monday, August 20, 2012

Insidious (2011)


Insidious relies on classic, old-fashioned type of scares: bumps-in-the-night, greatly-suspicious-room-corners, corner-of-your-eye sightings, etc. What horror movie wouldn't be complete with cupboards bursting open and creepy children running out?

[Also, the over-hyphenation of my first paragraph.]

I've basically described the first half of Insidious in that paragraph.

Which is a shame, because during the first hour or so, the movie was truly scary. Our definition of a horror movie nowadays is limited to torture and/or death porn, and it's awfully refreshing to watch a non-handheld camera / -"true story" movie with all the low-budget trappings. This from James Wan and Leigh Whannell, the guys that re-introduced torture porn to the world with the first Saw movie (which then led to the overbloated Saw franchise).

[I gave up after # 4.]

It even builds up as a psychological thriller at first, as you're given to wonder whether these things are actually happening, or whether the wife (played by Rose Byrne) is actually losing her mind and hallucinating a red-eyed black demon due to her son's comatose state.

Mid-way, there's a very, very good scene with mother-in-law Barbara Hershey (I'm using all real names here), where she relates to Byrne and Patrick Wilson (who plays the husband) about a dream she had about their son. The story is shown in scenes flashing between her retelling and the dream itself, so that we could see what she saw. With the lack of lighting (only a small bedside lamp) and the comatose boy, you don't even notice the demon in the corner until it (slowly) raises a shadowy arm and points at the boy.

Immediately after Hershey ends her story and looks at Wilson, the demon popped up from right behind him to give us all a jolly bejesus-ridding. I still get goosebumps from that scene.

After that, it got slightly disappointing. My gripe with the movie lies in the second act, where explanations happen.

Astral projection. Really?

I mean, within the context of the movie it does fit well with the sudden occurrences: the boy's spirit had wandered too far from his body, which is why malevolent spirits are looking to inhabit his currently-empty physical self. Possession takes time and energy; which is why the spirits haven't actually gotten down to the actual relocating yet, and are merely having some fun with Rose Byrne. But then you toss in Wilson's backstory (he had a similar episode to his son's when he was young, but blocked it out from memory), and then astral-projects himself in order to lead his son's soul back into his body...

From hints and hauntings to actual confrontations with the spirits (plus some freaky-deaky encounters in the spirit world which, though interesting, were not fully explained), you have quite a departure from the tone set earlier in the movie.

Mind you, even with the unexpected turn in storyline, the second half is not without scares: the turn-table scene where Leigh Whannell (yes, he's in this also) writes what psychic Lin Shaye relays to him is terrifying enough, and the subsequent scene where the spirits in question upend everything including our young boy's body (with glimpses of those spirits in trusty Polaroid photos). And the ending, of course.

Because a Wan-Whannell movie would not be complete without the obligatory twist in the end. But the set-up for it doesn't make sense. When you are getting your son's soul out, you do not stop halfway and yell at the ghost that used to haunt you. You get back into your body first, then you start yelling.

In case you're not spoiled yet... good.

7/10. Still can't get over the second part. One thing's for sure though, you'll never look at ceiling corners the same way ever again.

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