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NOTE 1: This is a review of the cut shown at the 2010 Sitges Film Fest. The film has been re-cut since this
review (I was told that my review actually helped in terms of finalizing the
final cut). Keep that in mind when reading.
NOTE 2: I finally saw the final cut and lots of my peeves were addressed. The comic relief was toned down and so was the rocker dude (who got CGd in the face, hence he fit with the whole more). Good shit!
From an outside point of view, Director James Wan and Screenwriter Leigh Whannell have had interesting careers. They of course crashed the scene with the indie chiller SAW, which went on to spawn the highest grossing horror franchise of all time. They then followed up with DEAD SILENCE, which sported awesome visuals and creepiness galore but had Studio interference written all over it, DEATH SENTENCE was next (with Whannell solely acting in it), a flick that got little support from its Studio in terms of marketing (lets face it, the mofo was dumped in the middle of the street like an STD ridden whore who can't suck no more) and now they have come full circle, back to their Indie roots with INSIDIOUS, a more modest effort budget wise than the last 2 Studio flicks, one that was made with full creative control lodged firmly in their jock straps. And ya know what... it showed and paid off in spades!
INSIDIOUS started off with a dazzling Kubrick-esque crane shot that sucked me right into its macabre world off the bat and then went on to tip its hat to one of my favorite horror films of all time, POLTERGEIST by taking a credible and likable family unit and slapping them in a house with ghostly shenanigans and having one particular child be in mortal danger. For the first 45 minutes or so, Wan went buck nuts with nifty visuals and the fear tactics, using the minimal (like door opening by themselves, spooky figures, chilling sounds) to put me through the ringer. Its like the old saying, sometimes less is more and in this case it applied hardcore. Although not every fear ploy got me, INSIDIOUS had enough ringers to have me hopping and squirming in my seat like a dude that ate way too many re-fried filled tacos. It was definitely the scariest movie of the year for me. The way Wan set up his fear set pieces, generated tension and to then knee me in the sack with brrr inducing payoffs was gold to say the least. Much like Mother's Day was SAW alumni Darren Bousman's more mature film, INSIDIOUS proved that Wan has learned a lot over the years; he had a firm grasp on what worked when it came to nailing the right fear beats. Acting wise, you could not have asked for a better cast. Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne were fantastic as the everyday couple, coming off as endearing while sharing an organic chemistry together. Shit, Wilson almost had me man-bitch tearing up at some point. Solid! Some of the supporting cast stood out as well. Ty Simpkins as the main little tot sold me hardcore, a child actor to keep tabs on and it was a delight to see the affable Lin Shaye in such a restrained role. Taking into account the type of part it was, she easily could have taken the “kooky” highway, but she didn't, instead she played it grounded, letting her eyes and intensity do the talking. In my opinion, she gave the performance of her career thus far. Damn I love that dame!
But what set INSIDIOUS apart from say POLTERGEIST and other films of its ilk was that at a certain point Whannell and Wan, decided to go against conventions to leap into wild and fresh directions. Its funny, cause when you take a subgenre like the haunted house film, we as an audience have been conditioned to expect certain things. And when a movie, such as this badboy, goes against the grain, your brain takes a longer time to process it. I had to take some time to digest INSIDIOUS afterward, to figure out how I felt about its choices. And after much boozing and verbally abusing the random people around me, I finally figured out where I stood...I loved it. Look at the big balls on Wan! The second half of the film took to me to places that I had never been and armed with a unique off kilter attitude, it made for quite the memorable horrocoaster ride. As you may have noticed, I have tried to be vague during this review, not to spoil shit, but i will say this, the main red faced villain, when all was said and done, so stood out for me. Talk about a an out there baddie! Rooted in folklore, but yet, rocked up! Loved the makeup, loved the out there M.O. and yes IT scared the f*ck out of me. Add to all that; deliciously bleak cinematography, striking set designs, an eerie/bleak, piano oriented score by Joseph Bishara that did wonders for the film, Barbara Hershey showing up to class the joint up (nod to THE ENTITY...or maybe BEACHES... who knows?) and a finale that snapped my neck like a celery stick dipped in Cheese-wiz and you get a horror film that yes, built its foundation off conventions, but then dropped acid and did its own TRIP OUT thing.
Any peeves? Yes but not many. There was so much going in this story that I sometimes felt the flick rushed through things, its rare for me to say this, but i wished it was 15 minutes longer, so that all the bases were covered 100%. And was I alone in thinking that the long haired, metal band singer ghost totally stood out like a sore clit? Every time that dude popped up, it would take me out of the movie for some reason. Just didn't "fit" within the whole. Finally, this is a personal qualm, but when I watch a horror haunted house movie, the less comic relief the better. So when the paranormal investigators kicked in (although very well played by Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson), they loosened the noose around my neck with their goofy antics. I didn't want that noose to go loose, I wanted it to rip my head off. But hey that's just me. The good news is that as the end credits rolled, I got destroyed anyways. INSIDIOUS was the movie I've been looking for the last 3 months or so. One that has NATHING to do with rape or torture; a freaking ghost story with a twist and a boldness in going where no other ghost flicks have gone before. ENGAGE!