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April 2nd, 2011 by unkle lancifer · 11 Comments

One selling point that is unlikely to ignite my interest is the line,“From the makers of SAW and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY.” I’m not what you would call a fan of either of those films. Be that as it may, I am now willing to let bygones be bygones and move forward. JAMES WAN you and I got off on the wrong foot but all is forgiven thanks to INSIDIOUS. Have you been reading my diary Mr. WAN because you have somehow delivered just the type of film I’ve been seriously yearning for lately, a straight-forward, old fashioned spook-a-thon that has faith in its audiences imagination. What a pleasure it is to be legitimately creeped-out for a change. The sound of a theater audience gasping in unison and then chuckling at themselves is music to my ears.

INSIDIOUS is wonderfully simple. What else do you need to know besides the fact that it centers on a family experiencing a haunting? The good news is that unlike many a supernatural film that has come down the pike as of late you get the sense that those behind the camera may actual believe what they are telling you and have a healthy respect for the otherworldly. There is darkness in this film and it feels like darkness should, expansive and limitless and deviously shrouding the unknown. The beauty part of INSIDIOUS for me is that it’s like listening to somebody tell a ghost story and then recognizing a moment where the storyteller has entered the zone where they are freaking themselves out as well, rare stuff indeed.

Made for relative pennies and parading effective performances rather than CGI, INSIDIOUS takes a giant step forward by looking toward the past. The excesses of WAN’S previous effort DEAD SILENCE are robustly buffered here and it’s as if the film could stand as a eureka moment marker for the director where he gleans the concept of “less is more.” Timing is everything and there are so many visual moments in INSIDIOUS that linger only long enough to mark the psyche and then scatter into oblivion and the effect leaves you straining your eyeballs in a futile attempt to capture and pinpoint the cause. In other words, it plays rather like a communal séance where you have a ring side seat to witness the supernatural. That’s what I (and apparently the audience I saw this with) call fun. To quote ANIMAL HOUSE, “Thank you sir, may I have another?”

Both PATRICK WILSON and ROSE BYRNE are convincing as befuddled parents who resist the gravity of their situation for as long as possible only to discover their worst fears are just the tip of the iceberg. THE ENTITY’s BARBARA HERSHEY shows up to throw some un-played cards on the table and reveal that she doesn’t mind starring in TWO of the better films I’ve seen in the last year. DEAD END’s LIN SHAYE leaves the most indelible mark as a Tangina-schooled psychic in a gas mask. Can I just let it be known that as far as scream queens go y’all can have your pip squeaks and dopey debutantes and I’ll take the inimitable SHAYE? She’s wonderful in this and much like the late great ZELDA RUBINSTEIN in POLTERGEIST, her character is presented as whimsical comedy relief of sorts only to, with a glance or change of tone, suggest a razor sharp depth that unsettles and takes you completely off guard. Really it’s a classic performance.

So yeah, I highly recommend INSIDIOUS; it does something wonderful by allowing the mysterious and uncanny free space to roam and rather than tie everything up in a pretty bow, it stokes the imagination. The way it drop kicks the grotesque smack dab into the everyday at regular intervals is sort of like bumping into that homeless alley rat from MULHOLLAND DRIVE on every block you stumble down. This is a movie that I think truly earns its title and I’m going to award it a zillion extra points for recognizing the voluptuous horror of TINY TIM. Go see it in the theater rather than wait for home viewing and do yourself a giant favor by allowing the darkness extra room to play.

Tags: Barbara Effin' Hershey · Trauma Au Courant · Tykes in Trouble

11 responses so far ↓

  • 1 cmcmcmcmNo Gravatar // Apr 2, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    Wow. You got me all excited there. I guess I’m in the minority but I really did like Dead Silence – except for the annoying CGI – so what you’re saying about this is giving me chills.

    I was just thinking about the whole CGI thing yesterday cause I finally got around to watching Dead of Night – with the Billy story at the end – and it was CREEPY. And I was wondering what it is exactly that is so un-scary about CGI faces nowadays – and I thought maybe there is some part of our brain that can detect that it is fake – so our brain says “Sorry, not scary.” Cause they really do try to make scary faces with computers and it just doesn’t even come close to the older movies with real people creepy faces (like Devil’s Triangle for crying out loud!).

    But then again maybe it’s a generational thing. And my undying annoyance with most CGI in movies and Pixar “cartoons.”

  • 2 jamesleeNo Gravatar // Apr 2, 2011 at 8:35 pm

    I loved this movie and it will be in my top 5 for 2011. There are some really good scare moments in the picture. And Lin Shaye pulled it off as only she could. Love this movie. Thank God something new and refreshing for a change.

  • 3 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Apr 2, 2011 at 9:11 pm


    I really wanted to like Dead Silence more than I did. I loved the idea behind it. I think it just kind of lost me with how over the top it was.

    On the other hand Insidious really took the time to set up a believable reality and I think it finds a more balanced tone.

    I think working on a smaller scale and focusing on direct simple scares really paid off.

    Maybe there’s a reason all the best scare films are relatively low budget!

    I’m going to revisit Dead Silence though on your recommendation!

    I’m in agreement with you on the CGI and how it just rings false.


    Insidious will be one of my favorites for the year too and I feel the same way about Lin Shaye, she was fantastic in this!

    Who needs CGI when somebody like Shaye can convince you that what is happening is legit just by their reactions?

    Actually I found the whole cast to be plenty instrumental in making this movie work as well as it does.

  • 4 ChrisNo Gravatar // Apr 2, 2011 at 11:01 pm

    Shaye is an absolute wonder in this flick. She makes you believe the unbelievable, makes you fear “the further” even before its seen, and has you rooting for her the whole way. That’s not to say the rest of the cast isn’t great as well, but Shaye overtakes them all with her sincerity in the role.

    And speaking of “The Further”, it was nice to see a spooky interpritation of the hereafter that didn’t resort to CGI trickery, just good ol’ fashioned darkness and set dressing (loved the demon’s secret hideout!) Also, it was nice to let atmosphere out to play for once, and not bombard the audience with wall to wall soundtrack, just letting the creaks and whispers tell the story.

    And major kudos to Wan and Whannel for actually making the mundane spooky (and not boring… I’m looking at you, Paranormal Activity). The sequence (that takes place in broad daylight none the less) with the little boy dancing succeeded in spooking me more than anything seen in recent years. Awesome stuff!

  • 5 cmcmcmcmNo Gravatar // Apr 2, 2011 at 11:19 pm

    I actually just went and saw a matinee after I read this and , yeah, it’s pretty much what I have been looking for in a scary movie for a long time. It was great too cause I was virtually alone in the theater – the only other people were like 20 rows back.

    And yeah Chris, the daytime scene with the boy was super creepy! The baby monitor scene creeped me out too. Ok – I squinted through a whole lot of it – which is exactly what I want in a horror movie!

  • 6 Jami JoAnne RussellNo Gravatar // Apr 2, 2011 at 11:55 pm

    @CMC – It’s because CGI is so obvious! When I was watching – I think it was Blade Trinity but it might’ve been Blade 2 – you could easily tell the difference between CGI Blade and real Blade.

  • 7 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Apr 3, 2011 at 1:18 am


    That scene that you mentioned with the dancing in the window is one that really stuck with me too. It’s really well done and came across like what an actual sighting might feel like.

    I think I mentioned this before but a ghost has been sighted several times in Kindertrauma HQ.

    Once while everybody was in the backyard one of AJ’s pals saw the old lady ghost through the window in our kitchen!

    OK, I better not mention our old lady ghost anymore it’s too late at night!


    So glad you went to see it! Yes, it’s been too long since a movie went for the scares in this way. Now I want to see it again!


    Another problem with CGI is that it just gets worse year by year! If you watch stuff from a couple years ago it already does not hold up!

    I just saw a pretty good movie recently and was so sad they shot themselves in the foot with CGI

    Plus the effects seemed like stuff that could be accomplished very easily with practical effects!

  • 8 Meep ParkerNo Gravatar // Apr 3, 2011 at 11:07 am

    Thank you for the wonderful review!

    My wife and I went to see this last night and had an absolutely good time. I can’t remember the last time I was legitimately creeped out this much from a film. And the audience really ate it up. They were absolutely quiet for all the build up, and totally freaked out by all the jumps and scares, followed by laughter.

    Wan & his writing partner really delivered on a real audience movie. The kind we’ve been waiting far too long for. I also was shocked that the film only cost about a million dollars to make. It’s so visually rich. They really put a lot of work into this one, and it’s shows.

    Oh, and the audience even applauded twice during the movie! When does that ever happen?! We’re totally in love with this movie and can’t wait to see it again.

  • 9 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Apr 3, 2011 at 2:54 pm


    My sentiments exactly! The scares are so good in this that I found myself laughing at my own reaction. Considering that the movie is played relatively straight it really speaks volumes of the joy to be found in being scared. If I had to write my review over again I’d say “Go enjoy Insidious…you’ll live longer!” Therapeutic stuff!

  • 10 Meep ParkerNo Gravatar // Apr 3, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    I love that! Horror movie as therapy. So true.

  • 11 hostelNo Gravatar // Apr 5, 2011 at 2:56 am

    Horror movies are the best type of movies, i love this state of mind when i ‘m some kind of scared.

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