UNK SEZ: We seldom have two reviews for the same movie going on around these parts but after hearing pal AMANDA REYES' personal take on INSIDIOUS that had to change. I pleaded and eventually bribed her to jot her thoughts down so that all you fine folks could check them out and the results are below. Enjoy and remember to visit AMANDA "MADE FOR TV MAYHEM" REYES at her home joint frequently HERE!
Being the retro film/television nut I am, I tend to be a little late to the game. Luckily, I was only off by days, as compared to years, when it came to catching Insidious. It was a fittingly rainy night and with plans for drinks afterwards, my evening was set. I wasn't particularly surprised by how much I enjoyed Insidious, but I was definitely taken by what I felt were some nifty TV movie references.
I should say that there may be some spoilers here. So if you haven't seen the movie yet… go now!
I won't speak for either Leigh Whannel or James Wan, the superb crafters of a ghost story that employs the whole less-is-more strategy so well it can't help but give you the willies, but I am pretty sure I felt a little small screen love in the theater. Perhaps the more obvious nod to the wonderful world of T.V. movies came attached to that creepy old woman. Appropriately named Old Woman (and played by Philip Friedman), she was eerily reminiscent of that spine-chilling gal from the 1989 British chiller The Woman in Black. Sure they added a veil and made her, like, more dead, but that detached feeling of inexplicable dread permeates both characters in much the same way. It's pretty interesting then that both movies deal with children. Well, Insidious deals with the calamity of everyday parenting while the Woman in Black deals with the lack thereof (and eventually Insidious heads in that direction). Theories abound that the black-clad, T.V.-movie mistress and high child mortality rate are not coincidental (and it's probably no mistake the lead character's last name is Kidd).
While both stories are about saving a child and then paying the price for it in the end, the filmmakers behind Insidious give a deeper connection to the Old Woman and the family she terrorizes. There are small scenes featuring Josh (Patrick Wilson) plucking gray hairs and applying eye cream to those sexy fines lines of his. Josh's repressed memories appear in the most innocuous moments in the film, adding a nice kick to my post film coffee talk discussion! It's been years since I've seen the excellent Woman in Black, but it's hard to deny the resemblance of those two characters. Black has recently been remade with Daniel Radcliffe and should hopefully be hitting our shores soon. I can't wait!
The other hit-me-over-the-head reference I got regards the overall film. I believe James Wan and Leigh Whannel were inspired more by Fox's 1991 tele-pic The Haunted than Poltergeist. In some ways they are noticeably similar, but I was most struck by the association with the baby monitor incident in Insidious and that creepy talking pillow in The Haunted. The 1991 film is based on the Smurls, a devout family who are haunted by some less devout manifestations. And perhaps it's simply by the very nature of small screen horror that Insidious' deftly intimate atmosphere can't help but to harness good vibes from any audience member heavily reared on television terror, i.e. me!
Made for very little money, Insidious manages to creep inside and wring your guts. There are so many touches, such as the constant ticking sound beginning with the grandfather clock, moving to the metronome to the EKG machine and finally back to that dang metronome, that prove those fabulous men behind the curtain were meticulous with crafting what I think is the best damn horror film to come in far too long. The atmosphere alone makes it a fine companion with such small screen fare as The House That Would Not Die (1970), Something Evil (1972), The Possessed (1977) and Don't Go to Sleep (1982). Wherever the inspiration arose from and whatever I am putting into it myself, I was pleased to finally come across a new horror movie that wanted my imagination to work as hard as the filmmakers'.